In its latest trial run, SpaceX's Grasshopper spacecraft soared to a height of 820 feet, hovered, then lowered itself back to Earth, alighting gracefully on the landing pad from whence it launched.
The Grasshopper is a 10-story tall Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket; it lifts things up, and it sets things back on the ground. Since last September, Grasshopper has been exponentially increasing its launch altitude over a series of test flights. Back in December, the spacecraft rose to a height of 130 feet before returning to Earth. Its last trial run, in March, saw it soar to 263 feet. This latest video shows the craft more than tripling its previous benchmark, lifting 820 feet into the air, remaining steady even on what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said was a windy day.
VTVL is a crucial tentpole for SpaceX, which hopes to implement the reusable launch system in its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets (the former, in a non-reusable form, has already been used to lift cargo to the International Space Station). And at the rate these test flight altitudes are increasing, it's hard not to feel confident in SpaceX's goals.
[Via Elon Musk]