I'd like to pass on my congratulations to SpaceX for yet another successful flight of their Grasshopper test rocket. The Grasshopper is a vertical takeoff and landing rocket, meaning it both launches and lands on its thrusters. Of course, all rockets launch vertically, so it's really the landing part that they're working on here. A rocket which can land on its launch pad can be used again, a far more preferable outcome to crashing into the sea. This test, a hover 40 meters above the ground, builds upon earlier successes at much lower heights.
SpaceX hopes that reusing their launch vehicles will help reduce the cost of a launch and lower the barrier to space. In an interview earlier this year with Wired magazine, SpaceX founder Elon Musk pointed out that air travel would never be financially feasible if each flight required a brand new plane. The same, they argue, applies to spaceflight.
Some detractors argue that the amount of fuel required to slow the rocket sufficiently for vertical landing isn't practical. Certainly the technology is still several years away, but given the affinity people seem to feel with the space shuttles, reusable rockets may prove a powerful boon for private spaceflight. Reusable rockets can have names, histories, even personalities - attributes which can humanize the rather cold science of sending things into space.
Check out the video above to see the test, or click the source link for more SpaceX videos.