At the South by Southwest Interactive festival (SXSW), SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed a recent video of the experimental rocket Grasshopper. At the same event, DIYROCKETS and Sunglass announced a partnership to launch the world’s first competition to create 3D printed rocket engines through collaborative design.
Musk showed the progress of Grasshopper, a reusable rocket that, when completed, will propel a spacecraft into orbit then return it back to the launch pad intact. The test took place March 7 at SpaceX’s rocket test facility in McGregor, Texas. The Grasshopper reached an altitude of 80.1 meters, twice as high as it went in the last test in December. The test lasted 34 seconds and the rockets landed safely on its gear.
“Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad,” reported a statement from SpaceX. “At touchdown, the thrust-to-weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9.”
Grasshopper’s technology will be used in the design of the Dragon 2 capsule, allowing SpaceX’s capsule to land anywhere on Earth. Elon Musk also highlighted the necessity of a reusable means of transportation for space to dramatically lower launch costs.
SXSW 2013 may have also seen the birth of a future SpaceX competitor. The competition announced by DIYROCKETS and Sunglass is aimed to create open source rocket engines to deliver small payloads into low earth orbit, lowering design’s costs.
“As NASA’s push towards private and public innovation finally comes to fruition and technology is now more affordable than ever, we see this as a greenfield opportunity to truly redefine space design and technology,” said Darlene Damm, co-founder and co-president of DIYROCKETS.
Sunglass’s cloud-based platform will permit designers to actively interact while creating space hardware and parts. The contest represents a new approach to space, resulting from free collaboration by people around the world. Sunglass will award a total of $10,000 for the winning designs and Shapeways.com, the world’s leading 3D Printing marketplace and community, will provide $500 in free 3D printing to help create the top 2 designs. The winners will be judged by a panel of industry experts with Segway inventor Dean Kamen among them.
It is maybe too early to say if DIYROCKETS’s initiative will be successful, but it is possible that crowdsourcing and 3D printing could represent a true industrial revolution.
Below, the SpaceX’s Grasshopper in the latest test on March 9, accompanied by Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”