SpaceX, a private spaceflight company, has built a rocket that can be used again and again. Presently the rockets can be used just once. They fall back to Earth after the first stage disintegration.
Nicknamed ‘Grasshopper’ the rocket successfully performed a sideways divert test on August 13 in Texas. The video showing this sideway ‘divert’ was released by SpaceX on August 14.
The video shows Grasshopper being launched to an altitude 820 feet. The rocket then hovered, moved 320 feet sideways and then returned to the center of its launch pad. The whole scene took just a minute to complete.
The Grasshopper rocket, officially known as Falcon 9 is about 10 stories tall. Its large size was the major challenge for controlling sideways maneuvers. These diverts are important part of the trajectory so as to make the rocket land safely to its launch area after re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere at supersonic speed.
Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of SpaceX, says that their main aim is to make spaceflight cheaper and more efficient than the current systems which use expandable rockets that burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere after lifting their payloads.
NASA tried to solve this problem using reusable orbiters and rocket boosters. But the result became so complicated and fragile that it ended up costing more money. Hence the idea was dropped.
In addition to a reusable second stage, Falcon 9 can be refurbished, reassembled and can also be launched again. With the release of Falcon 9 it is estimated that the cost of launching objects and people in space would decline.