The SpaceX rocket was designed to be a reusable – and thus affordable – alternative for manned space exploration and transport. The ambitious project aims to revolutionize the way we put things past the atmosphere. So far, things are looking up. The SpaceX rocket, codenamed Grasshopper, successfully completed its third flight test on March 11th. The controlled “hop” took the unmanned rocket to heights of 24 stories over the barren plains of McGregor, Texas and back down again – a key design aspect. Preliminary results show optimal performance, report … well, everyone!
What the SpaceX Rocket Means for Humankind
Until now, space exploration or even travel has been incredibly costly. NASA’s now defunct shuttle program was really the only reusable option for space vehicles and even it relied on external thrusters (which were not reusable) to escape the pull of the Earth’s gravity.
Traditional rockets pretty much burn up, are lost at sea, or become junk after their payload breaks into orbit. The capsule (such as the Russian-made Soyuz) is the only part that really “survives” the trip there and back.
The SpaceX rocket can go up and come back down without losing any parts. That may not sound like much but it could cut the cost of spaceflight so low that more and more private companies can feasibly enter the market. It would no longer take an entire government on an eccentric billionaire like Richard Branson to “fly me to the moon.” (Yes, I know SpaceX is owned by eccentric billionaire and PayPal creator Elon Musk.)
Musk said it had always been a dream of his to have a privately funded company capable of space exploration. His drive was so powerful that he travelled to former Soviet states attempting to buy a used ICBM (with out of pocket funds) for experimentation as a potential base model for the SpaceX rocket before he realized better alternative might be found a little closer to home. Musk’s quest continues even after childhood heroes such as Neil Armstrong criticize Musk and SpaceX.
This is huge news for humanity in general and could open up a whole new era in spaceflight. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget the Grasshopper SpaceX rocket only soared to 262 feet – a far cry from near-Earth orbit.
Info and Images: Arstechnica