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Soon, reusable rockets for commercial space travel

The Grasshopper reusable rocket. A SpaceX photo

LONDON (PTI): A private space travel company in US claims to have successfully launched its prototype rocket in a major step towards producing a reusable space vehicle and slash the cost of journey.

California based SpaceX's Grasshopper reusable rocket took a giant leap for commercial space flight last week when it rose 131 feet and landed safely back on Earth.

The latest launch by the company, which has already run resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS), is a major step in their ambition to produce a reusable space vehicle, the Daily Mail reported.

During the 29-second test flight conducted on December 17, the Grasshopper rocket rose to a height of 131 feet - around ten storeys - and hovered before landing safely on its launch pad using "closed loop thrust vector and throttle control".

The Grasshopper, in its previous two flights, has managed to hover at six feet and 17 feet before settling back down.

"To provide a little perspective on the size of Grasshopper, we added a 6 feet cowboy to the rocket," company's founder Elon Musk tweeted.

Powered by a Falcon 9 rocket and Merlin 1D engine, the Grasshopper is designed to take off and land vertically - part of SpaceX's plan to develop a rocket that can return to a launch pad for rapid reuse.

Grasshopper has four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers and a steel support structure to keep it intact when it settles back down.

Vertical-takeoff space vehicles developed thus far rely on disposable lower stages, which adds millions of dollars to the cost of launching spacecraft into orbit.

The new gen-next reusable rockets that can launch, fly and land would dramatically slash the cost of travelling into space.

Musk declared the launch a success, writing on Twitter: "No problemo".

SpaceX has already achieved the feat of becoming the first private company to launch a successful mission to the ISS.


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