April 23, 2013 at 12:23 AM ET
SpaceX's Grasshopper flew 250 meters (820 feet) straight up, tripling the height flown on its previous leap. The video provides a great overhead view from SpaceX’s hexacopter.
Via Twitter, SpaceX CEO said the Grasshopper was able to remain steady in its flight even on a windy day, hover and then land.
Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry, SpaceX's rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing.
This is Grasshopper's fifth in a series of test flights, with each test demonstrating dramatic increases in altitude. Last September, Grasshopper flew to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). In November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet). In December, it flew to 40 meters (131 feet), and then 80.1 meters (262.8 feet) in March.
Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket's first-stage tank, a Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.
Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with the Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.
© 2013 Universe Today. Reprinted with permission.