SpaceX Plans a three year Test Program for a Reusable Suborbital Rocket

Hobbyspace – spacex has submitted a draft Environmental Assessment for Issuing an Experimental Permit to SpaceX for Operation of the Grasshopper Vehicle at the McGregor Test Site, Texas – September 2011 to the FAA A 65 page pdf describes the Grasshopper RLV plans.

The Grasshopper RLV consists of a Falcon 9 Stage 1 tank, a Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs, and a steel support structure. Carbon overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), which are filled with either nitrogen or helium, are attached to the support structure. The Merlin- 1D engine has a maximum thrust of 122,000 pounds. The overall height of the Grasshopper RLV is 106 feet, and the tank height is 85 feet.

The propellants used in the Grasshopper RLV include a highly refined kerosene fuel, called RP- 1, and liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer. The Grasshopper RLV has a maximum operational propellant load of approximately 6,900 gallons; however, the propellant loads for any one test would often be lower than the maximum propellant load. Even when the maximum propellant load is used, the majority of the propellant would remain unburned and would serve as ballast to keep the thrust-to-weight ratio low.

Update: Other items from the document: p.13 –

SpaceX anticipates that the Grasshopper RLV program would require up to 3 years to complete. Therefore, the Proposed Action considers one new permit and two potential permit renewals

The planned reusable Grasshopper RLV would be based upon the Falcon 9

The goal of Phase 3 is to verify the Grasshopper RLV’s ability to perform a VTVL mission at higher altitudes and higher ascent speeds and descent speeds. To achieve this, the maximum mission altitude would be increased from 670 feet incrementally up to 11,500 feet. The altitude test sequence likely would be 1,200 feet; 2,500 feet; 5,000 feet; 7,500 feet; and 11,500 feet. The maximum test duration would be approximately 160 seconds. The Grasshopper RLV would land back on the launch pad.

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