SpaceX to test Grasshopper reusable booster at Spaceport America in NM

May 7 2013 06:22:09 PM | by Clark Lindsey, Managing Editor

It was expected that SpaceX would eventually move testing of the Grasshopper first stage reusable prototype booster, or subdequent versions, to New Mexico for high altitude tests but it was expected t be at White Sands Missile Range, not the commercial spaceport next door:

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Comments (18)

jb
and maybe add a landing pad for the dragon :)
7th May 2013 2:32pm
Brian
I thought New Mexico was strictly for suborbital because it's landlocked?
7th May 2013 9:58pm
Thomas Matua
Only for ELVs, but for RLV vehicles there are a number of excellent launch corridors that were mapped out in the 1990's.

In fact its high altitude location in NM makes it one of the best sites in the U.S. for RLV orbital launches.

And best of all local folk are already used to IRBM flying over the state from Utah to impact in WSMR. They have been doing IRBM overflights since the 1960's.

8th May 2013 11:25am
geoffc
Now, how to get from Tx to Nm? Any chance they could fly it there... Be a great test flight! :)

I know, I know, but the thought is fun.

7th May 2013 1:36pm
Joe
It is nice to see the Spaceport actually start coming into its own. A suborbital play from SpaceX could be a good way to validate the Grasshopper system and make some money at the same time.

Well played sir. Well played.

7th May 2013 1:03pm
Dick Eagleson
Very astute to support a commercial spaceport vs. a government reservation. It gives the spaceport a second marquee tenant in addition to Virgin Galactic. It gives the NM politicians who supported the spaceport a nice dividend on their invested political (and taxpayer) capital. In return, SpaceX likely gets a much freer hand with respect to test schedules and facility construction than they would have at White Sands. The deal is for three years. Given previous SpaceX statements about their Read More
7th May 2013 12:26pm
Brian
That is a fascinating idea you raise about Grasshopper: Apart from its role in enabling reusable first stages, SpaceX could theoretically turn it into a commercial suborbital vehicle and make a sideways play for that industry without anyone even suspecting. Or rather than being a suborbital provider, they could sell or lease commercialized versions of Grasshopper (presumably version 2) to a variety of flight services.
7th May 2013 12:42pm
Barrie
Maybe something like GH, but smaller, could be used for space-diving, or the flying goldfish bowl Armadillo was contemplating. Not sure SpaceX would be interested in operating such a thing, but maybe VG would be interested in expanding their product range.

Some people just want their 5 minutes of free-fall, but some might want the 1960s-style, flat-on-your-back BLAST-OFF! experience. The very well-heeled will try every product offered.

7th May 2013 1:26pm
Barrie
I wonder if a recoverable 2nd stage will go through a Grasshopper phase of it's own, then maybe push the envelope by launching it from a GH2.
7th May 2013 1:14pm
Brian
It's smart how they're expanding all over America: They'll have two operational facilities in California once they launch from Vandenberg next month, adding to the factory in Hawthorne; two in Texas when/if they build the Brownsville spaceport in addition to the MacGregor test site; one in Florida at Canaveral; and now apparently New Mexico.
7th May 2013 11:56am
Andrew Platzer
Another dozen states and even Congress might sit up and take notice of them. :-)
7th May 2013 1:01pm
Barrie
Are you guys suggesting they are taking up fielding positions for catching pork balls? :-)
7th May 2013 1:28pm
Andrew Platzer
That would be a duplication of effort since Orion is doing it so well already:
http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/industry.html
7th May 2013 2:25pm
Tom Billings
I would think that the first priority is their operations schedule for flight test, followed by operations schedule flexibility for sub-orbital ops. They already want those in Brownsville, and might get longer sub-orbital hops from NMSA to Brownsville.Then there is the possibility of orbital launch from NMSA, with recovery of the First Stage in Brownsville at lower payload cost. Only then do we reach the political possibilities. Spreading to states that have no NASA Centers will give them help Read More
7th May 2013 2:26pm
Thomas Matua
Actually based on some preliminary work the Southwest Regional Spaceport Task Force did for DC-1 emergency landings the best launch corridors were the old Vanguard route north to Ft. Carson (but the proposed Colorado Spaceport would work ), to ISS with a recovery site at the Oklahoma Spaceport and easterly with a recovery site at McGregor Range. Brownsville is just too far out of track to a useful orbit to make a good recovery area.
8th May 2013 11:39am
Dave Klingler
SpaceX is putting facilities in Texas. Sierra Nevada at Michoud (and a dozen other states), and Boeing at OPF-3. All three are political plays designed to win the support of opponents of Commercial Crew.

I'm not sure that New Mexico fits into that plan, but the GOP is talking about running Martinez in the 2016 election. A cynic might think they're just covering their bases.

At any rate, I hope I get to see some testing down at Spaceport America. That's worth a few hours' drive.

7th May 2013 2:47pm
Tom Billings
I would think that the first priority is their operations schedule for flight test, followed by operations schedule flexibility for sub-orbital ops. They already want those in Brownsville, and might get longer sub-orbital hops from NMSA to Brownsville.Then there is the possibility of orbital launch from NMSA, with recovery of the First Stage in Brownsville at lower payload cost. Only then do we reach the political possibilities. Spreading to states that have no NASA Centers will give them help Read More
7th May 2013 6:03pm
Thomas Matua
I expect the Brownsville site will get dropped eventually. It is just too close to Port Isabel and South Padre Island to be really safe if there is a launch accident.
8th May 2013 11:27am
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