In its latest trial run, SpaceX’s Grasshopper spacecraft, a 10-story tall Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket, soared to a height of 820 feet, hovered, then lowered itself back to the launchpad.
The Grasshopper, and VTVL more generally, is a crucial tentpole for Elon Musk’s SpaceX initiative, which hopes to implement the reusable launch system in its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The Falcon 9 has already been used to lift cargo to the International Space Station.
Why is this significant? Well, with VTVL the propulsion system used during the detach phase, which typically falls into the ocean never to be reused, would return to Earth for future missions.