Grasshopper demonstrates its lateral moves

While everyone, it seems, has been chatting about Elon Musk’s “hyperloop” concept this week, one of his companies, SpaceX, has been showing off some actual hardware. On Tuesday, SpaceX flew Grasshopper to an altitude of 250 meters, this time including a 100 meter lateral maneuver in the process, before returning the reusable launch vehicle demonstrator back to the center of the pad.

“The test demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Grasshopper is taller than a ten story building, which makes the control problem particularly challenging. Diverts like this are an important part of the trajectory in order to land the rocket precisely back at the launch site after reentering from space at hypersonic velocity.”

Meanwhile, the company is apparently still on track for its next Falcon 9 launch next month. That launch, of the Canadian CASSIOPE satellite on the inaugural flight of the Falcon 9 v1.1, is still listed on manifests for September 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. While that date had been slipping earlier this year—launch was slated for June back in March—the September 5 date has held firm for a while now. That date could slip again, of course, due to vehicle, launch site, and even scheduling issues (there is one Vandenberg launch ahead of that mission, a Delta IV Heavy launch of an NRO payload, planned for August 28.)

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