SpaceX is moving its reusable rocket test bed to Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
The move confirms big plans for the test bed. Flights to date have been conducted at SpaceX's engine test site in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX received a waiver from the FAA to fly Grasshopper up to 11,500ft from McGregor, but Spaceport America is an FAA-certified spaceport where no where no waivers are required.
"Spaceport America offers us the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of Grasshopper testing," says SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.
Spaceport America, a $200 million project, was purpose-built for anticipated Virgin Galactic suborbital tourism flights, which are scheduled to begin near the end of 2013. The Spaceport hosts experiments by several other companies, including Armadillo Aerospace and Up Aerospace. It is located in the barren desert, with few neighbors.
Grasshopper, essentially a modified Merlin 1D engine, fuel tanks and structural legs, was built to test founder Elon Musk's stated goal of a fully reusable launch vehicle, which could dramatically reduce launch costs.
"The first series of successful test were completed at McGregor, so the next phase of testing involves some at McGregor and some in New Mexico," says SpaceX. The company declined to offer further details.
The Spaceport can accommodate SpaceX's planned tests with little to no modification of existing or planned facilities.
Source: Flight International