Once again, SpaceX has successfully (and quietly) tested another rocket launch, recorded it, and released the video online, where it’s generated a huge buzz. What’s all the buzz about this time? Two things: The first and most important, is that this was a test of SpaceX’s next-generation Grasshoper rocket, which is capable of launching and landing back on its launch pad like rockets you’ve seen in sci-fi movies. The second reason is that the launch was filmed from an unmanned hexacopter drone hovering nearby the rocket’s launch site.
Grasshopper’s new test launch also took it to a record height of 774 meters, or just shy of 2,500 feet. That’s about twice as high as an earlier vertical leap, before safely landing all of its ten stories of rocket fuel, engine, electronics, and airframe back on the pad. Though the feat was managed with what seems like deft simplicity, you would be impressed if you knew how tricky the flight algorithms and electronics had to be. SpaceX’s longterm goal is to save vast amounts of money when launching payloads into space. Instead of throwing away the various orbital stages, like every other rocket, it wants to recover and reuse them.