SpaceX, the private rocket company founded by Elon Musk, is doing stuff that looks like it must be done with special effects. It’s just so cool.
Back in early July, the company released a video showing one of its rockets shooting up into the air, briefly stalling, and then perfectly gracefully returning to its launchpad.
But now the company has one-upped itself, going beyond a mere vertical launch.
This time SpaceX was able to launch a rocket, have it move sideways, and then have it return to its original path.
On August 13th, the Falcon 9 test rig (code name Grasshopper) completed a divert test, flying to a 250m altitude with a 100m lateral manoeuvre before returning 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. Grasshopper is taller than a 10 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.
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