Must-see video: SpaceX Grasshopper rocket makes a half-mile hop

by Alan Boyle, Science Editor /  / Updated 
Image: Grasshopper
SpaceX

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SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket prototype made another record-setting vertical takeoff and landing this week from the California-based company's test pad near McGregor, Texas. But what's really cool about Oct. 7's half-mile (744-meter) ascent and controlled descent is the amazing view from a remote-controlled hexacopter that captured the video clip.

This is what a rocket launch and landing is supposed to look like.

The 10-story craft is testing the technologies that would be required to have the first stage of a rocket fly itself back to base after launch. The Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 first-stage tank, Merlin 1D rocket engine, landing legs and a steel support structure.

Last month's launch of a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket provided a real-world test of rocket reusability, and although the test wasn't completely successful, it's only a matter of time before SpaceX gets it right. Then everything changes.

Earlier Grasshopper tests:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding +Alan Boyle to your Google+ circles. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.

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