Last week, SpaceX’s Grasshopper took its highest leap ever, doubling its past flights. On March 7, 2013, the vertical and takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle, rose 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet), hovered for approximately 34 seconds and then landed safely – and more accurately than ever before. The goal of Grasshopper is to eventually create a reusable first stage for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which would be able to land safely instead of falling back into the ocean and not being usable again.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed this video this weekend during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, calling the Grasshopper’s flight a “Johnny Cash Hover Slam,” since the video includes Cash’s iconic song, “Ring of Fire.” A cowboy dummy was strapped to the side of the rocket for good measure (and perhaps good luck, since the previous test fight included the cowboy).
The test was completed at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.
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This is Grasshopper’s fourth in a series of test flights, with each test demonstrating exponential increases in altitude. Last September, Grasshopper flew to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) and in December, it flew to 40 meters (131 feet).
Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminum landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.