Science

Rocket flight as we’ve never seen it before: SpaceX captures Grasshopper rocket via hexacopter

SpaceX is continuing to test its vertical takeoff and vertical landing rocket, Grasshopper, with small hops to test the rocket guidance and landing technology needed to return a rocket to Earth in exactly the way it slipped the surly bonds of our planet.

This time, however, SpaceX captured a close-up view.

In July SpaceX launched Grasshopper on a 1,000-foot, 300-meter hop to test a new sensor suite for greater accuracy and control. This past weekend, the company blasted the bird to 744 meters — almost 2,500 feet — and captured the view via a hexacopter that went closer to the rocket than any previous flight — and perhaps closer to a rocket in flight than we’ve ever seen before.

The result is amazing images in flight and on the ground:

In some video frames, you can clearly see one side of the hexacopter, as well as its blades. In others, you can see that the hexacopter is incredibly close to the SpaceX Grasshopper rocket’s flight path — just a few degrees off.

That’s possible because that hexacopters are cheap, light machines that do not pose any danger to the rocket. They allow close-up photography of hard-to-reach places without any risk to human life either. Frankly, at SpaceX’s scale of R&D, these hexacopters are almost disposable.

And they give us literally a birds-eye view of some of the most advanced rocketry in the world today.

SpaceX is experimenting with multiple methods of retrieving expensive rocket components, either by survivable splashdowns in the ocean, as with the powerful Falcon 9 rocket, or by landing rockets on their tails.

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