Elon Musk has done incredible things this year but the South African-born entrepreneur isn’t quite done with 2012 just yet. This evening (US time), Musk tweeted out links to a series of videos and photos that show off the latest developments from SpaceX’s ground-breaking Grasshopper rocket.
The rocket is still in development but it is designed to be ‘reusable’, that’s to say that it takes off and lands vertically, as the video below shot on December 17 shows.
The rocket made its first trip in September after it traveled 2 meters (6 feet) up before landing safely. In November it went as high as 5.4 meters (17.7 feet); this time around it traveled up (and then down) 12 stories — that’s just shy of 40 meters (130 feet) — and it included a six foot tall cowboy mannequin as a passenger.
Here’s the cowboy, which Musk says provides a sense of perspective:
You can just about make out the figure as the Grasshopper takes flight:
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.
Musk’s electric Tesla car has high profile fans, including Twitter founder Evan Williams and actress Alyssa Milano, and, in a show of its innovation, it won Motor Trends car of the year award. It’s expected to continue pushing boundaries next year — Musk himself says the car business should become profitable in 2013 — but SpaceX is perhaps even more exciting…though that depends on how you rank eco-friendly cars against space exploration.
Headline image via Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images