We keep hearing more from SpaceX and the company's founder Elon Musk these days, and while the latest news might not be as dramatic as the Dragon capsule's recent attachment to the International Space Station, it's still groundbreaking, or at least fun to watch.
On Saturday March 9 SpaceX launched Grasshopper, a reusable test rocket, from McGregor, Texas. The rocket achieved a height of 262.8 feet, making it the highest and most accurate test flight SpaceX has launched. SpaceX engineers are trying to make rockets that land in one piece, rather than disintegrating upon returning to Earth. Although this was the Grasshopper's fourth test, it was the first time the test rocket landed in the center of the launch pad. Grasshopper flew to 8.2 feet in September, 17.7 feet in November and 131 feet in December.
While giving his keynote at SXSW in Austin later in the day, Musk commented on footage of the launch.
"If we're going to be a multiplanet species, we must have reusable rockets," Musk said.
He also tweeted a video of the launch, along with the words, "The Johnny Cash hover slam!"
Standing 100 feet tall, the Grasshopper is comprised of reconfigured Falcon 9 parts that were redesigned with metal legs for vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL). SpaceX hopes this method will be cheaper than what it has been doing, which is letting the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to detach and descend to Earth.
Musk has been causing quite a stir in Texas over the last few days. On March 8 he traveled to Austin to speak with lawmakers there about building a spaceport in the state.
During his hour-long keynote at SXSW in Austin, Musk spoke on a variety of issues, including battery cells, higher education, solar panels and even a new form of transportation he has in mind called the "hyperloop."
"It would be something that would be twice as fast as a plane, at least, in terms of total transit time," Musk said. "It would be immune to weather, incapable of crashing pretty much unless it was a terrorist attack, and the ticket price would be half of a plane."
Additionally, Musk commented that he himself might like to travel to Mars someday.
"I'd like to die on Mars, just not on impact," he said.
We'll have to see if Musk's proposed SpaceX inventions come to fruition. In the meantime, check out this video of the Grasshopper as it launched from Texas on Saturday.