Some amateur rocketeers are content to play with two-foot tall replicas of the Apollo rocket. But if you’re the Billionaire Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal, and now electric car company owner and private spaceflight pioneer, then you can go bigger. Much bigger.
The SpaceX Grasshopper is a reusable rocket which is about 10 storeys tall. It consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminium landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure. Where the SpaceX Grasshopper differs from other rockets, is in the fact it is designed to be used more than once. Unlike other rockets which burn up on re-entry, the Grasshopper can survive the intense heat, and then guide itself back down to earth and land on its tail.
SpaceX have tested the Grasshopper rocket twice before, achieving a maximum height of 250 metres (820 feet) on the second test. But this latest flight is the highest yet and it trialed new flight and landing algorithms designed to guide the rocket back to its landing pad with more accuracy.
It’s a pretty amazing piece of technology. Made even more amazing that it was created by a private company.