SpaceX has released video footage of its Grasshopper rocket's latest test flight — and as you'll see, the reusable vehicle is reaching new heights, quite literally.
In the clip, the rocket soars to 1, 066 feet — a record for the platform — hovers for a moment, then descends, balanced on its own exhaust, back to its launch pad for a precision landing.
In December, Grasshopper shot 130 feet into the air, and then landed intact. In April, it reached 820 feet in a similar fashion. This most recent test occurred on June 14 (although the video was released July 5). Its first test, which took place in September, showed what now seems like a meager six-foot flight.
The rocket has proven it can successfully clear and hover at heights similar to that of Manhattan's Chrysler Building — an exponential step forward in the space transport company's move to pioneer what might best be described as space taxiing. Grasshopper is a 10-story vertical takeoff, vertical landing vehicle designed to test the technology that would be required to successfully send a rocket away from, and back to Earth.
According to SpaceX, most rockets are designed to burn up upon atmosphere re-entry; however, SpaceX's rockets are being crafted so as to withstand re-entry, and to return to launch pads for vertical landings.
SpaceX used this latest flight session to test a new sensor that keeps track of the rocket’s position relative to the ground. Grasshopper is currently equipped with a Falcon 9 rocket first-stage tank, a steel support structure, four aluminum landing legs and a Merlin 1D engine (watch it in action, above).
Next on deck, SpaceX is working on a set of retractable landing legs to replace the fixed aluminum ones that the rocket currently uses to perch.
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