SpaceX moving Grasshopper testing to New Mexico

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Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 3:25 pm

Grasshopper is leaping to New Mexico.

Spaceport America officials released a statement Tuesday saying that SpaceX will be moving its Grasshopper testbed for vertical takeoff and landing technology there from the company's development site in McGregor. The release says SpaceX has completed Grasshopper's low-altitude testing and is getting ready to move on to the next round of higher tests.

Spaceport America is slated to be home base for Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceflights, so SpaceX will have pretty good company. And it makes sense as Grasshopper hits higher altitudes to move testing to an unpopulated area.

I have a call in to SpaceX to find out more about this, like how many jobs (if any) are relocating to New Mexico. More on this as I get it.

Meanwhile, on the subject of testing that's staying in McGregor: the particularly loud 10-second test (I've been using that phrase so much I'm thinking about reducing it to an acronym, like "PL10ST") is now set for Wednesday, according to an email from SpaceX.

UPDATE, 4:40 PM: Just heard back from SpaceX's Christina Ra, both by email and a subsequent phone call.

From the email: "Spaceport America offers the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of Grasshopper testing, including the ability to coordinate tests to high altitudes and the flexibility to fly a variety of trajectories." Translated from corporatespeak: In New Mexico we'll be able to fly side to side instead of only up and down without worrying about whose house we might be crashing into.

In the phone call, Ra said some Grasshopper testing will remain in McGregor, and it isn't clear yet how many jobs, if any, would be moving. "We don't know yet what that makeup will look like," she said. "It depends on what happens in the next few years."

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