SpaceX has released spectacular video of the latest test of its vertical take-off and vertical landing (VTVL) Grasshopper which reached 2,440 feet (744 m) altitude – the highest flight yet – on Oct 7. Like some of the latest ‘hops’ the Grasshopper was filmed from a single camera hexacopter which appears to have been hovering at around 2,000 feet. The video shows the Merlin 1D-powered Falcon 9 first stage tank passing by the hexacopter before getting much closer to the camera during the descent. The final phases of the flight also show significant amounts of flame burning alongside the vehicle and through the legs attached to the support structure, in addition to the normal exhaust plume from the vehicle’s single rocket engine.
As with previous tests the latest flight was conducted in McGregor, Texas. Up until now the demonstrator had flown to a height of 820 feet and included a lateral transfer of some 330 feet. In coming months SpaceXis expected to move onto tests of a larger version of the Grasshopper also dubbed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk as Falcon 9R (re-usable). Instead of a single Merlin 1D, the v1.1 successor will have nine -1Ds. Testing will be conducted at a specially constructed site at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The VTVL is designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact instead of burning up on atmospheric re-entry. The recent Falcon 9 v1.1 flight from Vandenberg AFB, Calif, also included a first attempt at slowing the first stage.