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Elon Musk's Grasshopper tops 300m, lands safely

Next, take this pebble from my hand …

Video Elon Musk's Grasshopper rocket has eclipsed the 80-odd metres it managed in March, achieving a “personal best” of around 325 metres and landing successfully, in spite of wind during the test flight.

The thousand-foot-mark is a significant milestone for the ten-storey vertical takeoff, vertical landing rocket (VTVL). Getting something that ungainly to descend neatly needed a new suite of sensors to get a more accurate fix on the rocket's position.

The test was conducted in June, but the video – shot from a hexacopter, for that added pinch of wow-factor – was published over the weekend.

SpaceX's aim is to make VTVL reliable enough for routine use, allowing much more of a rocket to be treated as reusable (rather than merely dumping the boosters in the ocean).

Hence the new sensor pack in the latest test, which in its YouTube posting SpaceX says merely that the new high accuracy sensor, in addition to its existing sensors and F9-R control algorithms, allowed the rocket to bring itself safely down from its new record altitude.

The other bits of Grasshopper are a Falcon 9 first stage, a Merlin 1D engine, steel and aluminium landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

The 325-metre flight is higher than Manhattan's Chrysler building, London's Shard, or the Sydney Tower.

Here's the vid:

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