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Everyone's a winner!

It's Wednesday. We have the long-awaited caption contest results and a cool space video, just because space is cool.

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Just kidding, only one person is a winner, and it's SimplEEngineering. Congratulations, you're the April Caption Contest champion - $100 in SparkFun credit is coming your way! Remember to use it for good, not for evil.

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As a thank you to everyone else who contributed to the contest, we'll leave you with a treat. SparkFun has a robust email chain culture; on any given day at least one of us will send out a company-wide email about whatever interesting, geeky thing is happening on the internet lately, and the thread begins. Yesterday we all got excited about SpaceX's newest flight test for the Grasshopper, a 10-story, vertical takeoff/vertical landing vehicle intended to return to Earth intact. Unlike most rockets, which are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry, SpaceX's rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. It's pretty cool, so we thought we'd share it with you for some mid-week excitement!



Edit: For some reason, we aren't allowed to show that video on our webpage. You can follow the link here to watch the video directly on YouTube. Sorry for the inconvenience!

See you tomorrow for the maiden voyage of an awesome new blog post series!

Comments 16 comments

  • OMG they're playing real world Lunar Lander

  • You need to know three things to assess Grasshoppers significance:

    1) it is completely autonomous: current Falcon-9/Dragon missions fly ISS resupply missions completely autonomously without ground control. They are capable of autonomous docking, but aren't allowed to do that because a minor fender-bender with the ISS would be Very Bad. Today, the Dragon currently approaches literally "within arm's reach" of ISS, and stops, so ISS can grab it with its arm and pull it to a docking, but the plan is to allow it to do the whole docking procedure itself (with existing equipment) once it has better proven its consistent performance reliability

    2) Grasshopper is intended as a development process of Falcon stage recovery. Remember how the Shuttle promised in the 70s to reuse its SRBs and main LOX/LH2 tank (the big rocket-shaped things that towered over the Shuttle Orbiter at launch), and promised that each Orbiter would be able to fly again in a month or so (allowing 4-5 shuttle orbiters to perform weekly launches at minimal cost), but never delivered on any of that in 30 years of operation? Well Elon Musk already has SpaceX's launch costs cheaper than anyone else can hope to compete with, and is actively working on stage recovery, so that he can fly up to 100 missions per launcher with minimum rework between missions (which IIRC would slash SpaceX's launch cost to under 3% of current prices) The first, second and third [when used] stage would each independently fly themselves back to a ground landing at a SpaceX base (no ocean recovery) to be refitted for relaunch, while its Hawthorne CA factory continues to manufacture 400 new modules/year: a Falcon 1 first stage is essentially one Merlin 1 engine/tank module, nine are multiplexed to produce a Falcon 9 first stage; 27 of them will be used in the first stage of Falcon Heavy, which is slated to begin testing next year .

    3) McDonnell Douglas independently nearly perfected VTOL (Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing) orbital craft with the DC-X Delta Clipper in 1991-95, until its test prototypes had the expected testing mishaps after several successful test missions, and NASA basically rejected it in favor of its own "in-house" Shuttle-like VTHL (Vertical Takeoff Horizontal landing) co-venture with Lockheed (which was abandoned without ever being completely designed, much less built or flown)

    If you're into such things, look into the manned Dragon variant. When NASA required a capsule safety system (to prevent Apollo-1 type disasters) everyone else wehn with old proven "launch safety tower" tech from Gemini, but the Dragon capsule was instead designed to come to a soft landing on any solid body in the inner Solar System on its built-in Draco engines (since that was on Musk's To-Do list anyway) His system isn't just a disposable safety system that is replaced after each launch, it's an integral part of the Dragon's entire flight profile: in a launch emergency, it can it can "escape to ground landing"; in a Shuttle Challenger type emergency, it may "escape to orbit"; and in the absence of any launch emergency, it can be used for a rocket-powered ground recovery landing as the normal end of a mission, instead of the Apollo-like ocean splashdown typical of other US orbital craft. (to be fair: the Soviets mastered parachute-based ground landings back in the 60s/70s)

  • Don't forget about Armadillo Aerospace, they have been launching and landing rockets vertically for over 10 years and this flight: http://armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home/News?news_id=426 lands with a steerable chute. Cool stuff!

  • Woo! Thanks a lot!

    You have to respect that they just balanced a 100ft, 100+ton rocket using hundreds of thousands of pounds of thrust and sat it down like a dainty butterfly. I have my reservations about manned commercial space flight, but I have to admit that is REALLY impressive.

  • maan he copied my idea i posted a similar one before him(i think) ..:P well anyway gud luck with ur goodies..!

  • I feel for the hawk - looks like it bit the dust in the shock wave when the engine started!! Very Very cool

  • Its a neat concept, but there are these things called parachutes. I hear they can do the same thing without burning fuel. Well except for getting it where you want it.

    • You have to remember that this test vehicle doesn't start from orbit or high altitude. With just a 250 m drop any reasonably sized parachute wouldn't be effective at all for something that heavy. I would imagine the full version could use parachutes at an earlier stage of the descent to slow the rocket and get it into the general area of the desired landing site. Then the rockets would be used to make the actual landing after the rocket is already at a relatively slow rate of descent.

      • You are correct. A perfect example of a grasshopper type system was the landing system for Curiosity. It used a rocket system with a space crane to lower Curiosity. So Grasshopper has the right idea that rockets will always reduce the need of parachutes, even on space bodies that don't have Earth-like atmospheres.

  • I don't get it.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasshopper_(rocket).

      In summary, it is a rocket designed for re-use in suborbital applications. Right now it's experimental technology on doing re-usability in rockets. If you notice in the all space vehicle launches all the rockets used were one time use. This is very expensive for space exploration. The Space Shuttle (before retirement) were the only vehicles to be reused for space flight, and since that inception, it has paid for itself over and over again (even with the hiccups it had towards the end).

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