A private company's prototype reusable rocket made its highest leap to date last month, soaring 100 stories into the air before landing softly back at its launch pad as planned.
In its sixth-ever test flight, SpaceX's experimental Grasshopper rocket hopped to a maximum altitude of 1, 066 feet (325 meters) on June 14. It then made a slow and controlled descent back to Earth at the company's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.
SpaceX's reusable Grasshopper rocket prototype rises skyward from its McGregor, Texas launch pad during a June 14, 2013 test flight that reached 1, 066 feet (325 meters) before descending back to Earth. This still was taken from a video recorded by a small unmanned hexacopter.
The 10-story-tall Grasshopper is a big step in this direction, company officials say. The rocket takes off and lands vertically, touching down on four metallic legs back at its launch pad.
Grasshopper incorporates the first-stage tank of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which launches the California-based firm's Dragon capsule on unmanned cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA. But Grasshopper uses just one Merlin engine while the Falcon 9 sports nine (as its name suggests).
SpaceX's reusable Grasshopper reaches a new record height of just over 1, 066 feet (325 meters) on June 14, 2013 during a test flight from its McGregor, Texas proving ground. This image is a still from a video recorded by an unmanned hexacopter drone.
SpaceX's Grasshopper has been leaping higher and higher with every successive test flight. Its previous launches took place in September, November and December of 2012, and March and April of this year. Those hops reached peak altitudes of 8.2 feet (2.5 m), 17.7 feet (5.4 m), 131 feet (40 m), 263 feet (80 m) and 820 feet (250 m), respectively.
In addition to reaching unprecedented heights, the most recent flight also incorporated new navigation technology, company officials said.
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