Sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan, British billionaire Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity at Spaceport America in New Mexico and take the first commercial suborbital space flight in history.
The landmark flight, which Virgin has been trying to conduct for 15 years, will also be the culmination of a 30-year effort by New Mexico to become a commercial space power.
Via my friend Clark Lindsey over at HobbySpace comes some rather startling news:
SpaceX is developing an 106-foot tall reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) rocket called Grasshopper based upon the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. It has applied for an experimental permit to conduct a series of flights up to 11,500 feet at its engine testing facility in McGregor, Texas.
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.