SpaceX has just taken a major step closer to achieving the world's first reusable launch vehicle. The private space-firm has just released a video showing its Grasshopper Vertical Take Off and Landing Vehicle rising up to a height of 40 meters (130 feet) where it hovers for a brief moment, and then vertically returns back to Earth and lands unscathed.
The test marked the third successful launch and landing of the Grasshopper prototype. Previous short flights included a September 21 lift-off and landing at a height of two meters (six feet) and a November 1 test at 5.4 meters (17.7 feet). The latest test was conducted on December 17 at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.
Eventually, SpaceX would like to develop Grasshopper to the point where it will serve as a reusable first stage for its Falcon 9 heavy launcher. The Grasshopper is currently equipped with a Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.
Should the plan work, SpaceX will drastically reduce the costs of spaceflight through the reuse of every element of its launch system.