Video of Falcon 9 Reusable Test Vehicle Flight

Video Caption:
  Video of Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) taking its first test flight at our rocket development facility. F9R lifts off from a launch mount to a height of approximately 250m, hovers and then returns for landing just next to the launch stand. Early flights of F9R will take off with legs fixed in the down position. However, we will soon be transitioning to liftoff with legs stowed against the side of the rocket and then extending them just before landing.

The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year (Grasshopper can be seen in the background of this video). Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a F9R as shown here, which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like.

  • therealdmt

    Nice legs. Sa-mokin’!

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Looked a little shaky at times but still an extremely impressive test flight. Congratulations SpaceX.

  • Hug Doug

    it did an in-flight sideways divert, similar to what was done on the 7th test of the original Grasshopper. it’s just hard to tell because of how close the hexacopter was to the rocket!

  • Stuart


  • Tonya

    Even on the shortest hop, it has to move over to clear the support blocks used for launch.

    It looks like the video confirms that just three engines are installed for these early test flights.

  • Kapitalist

    I think this is very significant. The Falcon 9 is an operative rocket, and now it is becoming reusable. But I wonder if they will not launch over the Atlantic, or will they actually fly back to the content to land?

    I suppose this thing will eventually be cabable of landing on a ship to refuel and then fly back to base for the next launch. You don’t transport a rocket, it transports itself.

  • Hug Doug

    yes, they will be flying back to the launch area to land. first stage separation does not happen very far downrange.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Then it seems that they are scaling up. It’s not really a Falcon 9 yet, more like a Falcon 3. Still, you have to start somewhere and the progress has been very impressive. I hope we can get some more data on the return of the F9v1.1 first stage launched last Friday.

  • windbourne

    Considering that it lands about 200 KM east, and 400-500 KM south, that would indicate that they have at least 300 km or more to come back. In addition, they will have to stop their forward travel. Seems like a lot of energy.

    I still think that they would be better off landing them on an oil rig, but ….

  • Hug Doug

    the first stage would begin the trip back right after stage separation (which is roughly 100km downrange). there’s a significant amount of downrange “coasting” that is avoided by immediately doing a burn back to the launch pad.

    try this picture for an approximate visualization of the trajectory:

    they would indeed be able to save fuel / use more fuel to launch payload if they had a downrange landing area, that’s true (Musk has said that returning the stage to the pad cuts max. payload by 30%), but that would also mean a lot of special resources devoted to transporting the rocket back to the launch site. SpaceX’s ultimate goal is for a very rapid turnaround, and that means bringing the stage back to the launch site ASAP.

    the drawback of reduced payload capacity is more than made up for by the savings in reusing the stage.

  • Hug Doug

    i’ve heard a rumor (unsubstantiated by any official source i can find) that the 3 engine version will stay in McGregor for low-altitude flight tests and a 9 engine version will be going to White Sands for high-altitude tests.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    That’s why I’d like to see more data from the return last Friday. We need to see how the 9 engine model behaves at real return speeds. Of course, real launches are rare events so the more testing they can do, the better.