SpaceX finishes off 2012 with vertical-landing 'Grasshopper' rocket test
A SpaceX prototype spacecraft, called Grasshopper Vertical Take Off and Landing Vehicle, accomplished a successful and more advanced test flight, the video of which was just released.
The vertical-landing craft, powered by the Merlin rocket engine which is also used in the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, rose 131 feet after taking off, hovering a bit to then land vertically. That was considerably higher than two previous tests of 6 feet in September and 17.7 feet in November - but still just as high as the 10-story tall rocket itself.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that more and more complicated test flights are planned over the next months. The year 2013 will also be noteworthy for the first planned test of the Falcon Heavy, one of the largest rockets ever built. For SpaceX it will be most important to build a track record of successful payload launches though, in order to win new launch contracts especially from the largest customer of all, the Pentagon. Military launches require special certification and requirements, but also pay best, with a two-digit billion dollar volume just for the next decade.
Launch-test video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4PEXLODw9c