SpaceX Grasshopper tests aim to quickly move up in altitude
September 17 2012 12:01:11 AM |
SpaceX will soon begin test flying its Grasshopper prototype of a reusable first stage booster rocket. The company said last week at the AIAA conference that they are negotiating with the FAA for the option to go to higher altitudes in the first phase of the test program than previously agreed with the FAA: SpaceX Prepares 'Grasshopper' Test Flights - Spaceports.
In the Environmental Assessment (pdf) (Nov. 10, 2011) for the tests at the company's facility in McGregor, Texas, the following entry (page 6, section 220.127.116.11) gave the flight test plan:
Launch Phases 1 and 2: Below-controlled-airspace VTVL
The goal of Phase 1 is to verify the Grasshopper RLV’s overall ability to perform a VTVL mission. During a Phase 1 test, the Grasshopper RLV would be launched and ascend to 240 feet AGL and then throttle down in order to descend, landing back on the pad approximately 45 seconds after liftoff. The Grasshopper RLV would stay below Class E Airspace (700 feet AGL). In Phase 2, there would be slightly less propellant loaded, a different thrust profile, and the maximum altitude would be increased to 670 feet, still below Class E Airspace. The mission duration during Phase 2 is again approximately 45 seconds.
Launch Phase 3: Controlled-airspace VTVL (maximum altitude)
The goal of Phase 3 is to verify the Grasshopper RLV’s ability to perform a VTVL mission at higher altitudes and higher ascent speeds and descent speeds. To achieve this, the maximum mission altitude would be increased from 670 feet incrementally up to 11,500 feet. The altitude test sequence likely would be 1,200 feet; 2,500 feet; 5,000 feet; 7,500 feet; and 11,500 feet. The maximum test duration would be approximately 160 seconds. The Grasshopper RLV would land back on the launch pad.