Private aerospace company SpaceX have released new footage of their Grasshopper rocket completing a successful takeoff, hover and landing at a “personal best” of around 1066 feet – higher than the London Shard.
The Grasshopper is 10-story tall vertical takeoff vertical landing rocket (VTVL) – a class of devices that SpaceX are aiming to make reliable enough for routine use. The success of VTVL vehciles would cut the costs of trips to space by making rocket parts reusable. Current spacecraft routinely discard their massive fuel chambers so that they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX was founded by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk – Musk is also CEO of Tesla Motors, an American company that manufactures and sells electric cars. The company made history in May 2012 as the first private organization to send supplies to the International Space Station on board its Dragon spacecraft.
The 95 second video was shot from a small drone – a hexacopter – and shows the Grasshopper’s amazingly precise ascent and descent.
“Previous Grasshopper tests relied on the other rocket sensors,” said SpaceX in a statement accompanying the video, “but for this test, an additional, higher accuracy sensor was in the control loop. In other words, SpaceX was directly controlling the vehicle based on new sensor readings, adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing.”
SpaceX engineers will continue to develop the Grasshopper’s capability, which has already increased dramatically from its hovering-height of 130 feet last December.