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Is Cheap Space Flight Around The Corner? SpaceX's Grasshopper Reaches Unprecedented Heights [VIDEO]

Apr 23, 2013 12:42 PM EDT
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SpaceX’s Grasshopper reached an unprecedented 820 feet Monday, tripling the altitude it achieved just a month ago.

This was in spite of what CEO Elon Musk said on twitter were windy conditions.

Grasshopper is an essential part of SpaceX’s efforts to render Space travel affordable. But even this isn’t the end goal for Musk who founded the company in 2002 with the aim of enabling the colonization of other planets.

In order to accomplish this lofty task, SpaceX has been hard at work developing a reusable rocket, which, the company says, would be a significant step in reducing space airfare.

Cue Grasshopper. Comprised of a first-stage tank from the SpaceX Flacon 9 rocket, one Merlin-1D engine and four steel landing legs, the spacecraft is an embodiment of recycling.

In all, Grasshopper has come a long ways over the last six months: just last September it debuted with a 6-foot high hop. In December this increased to 131 feet, which was then followed by a 160-foot flight in March.

SpaceX made history in 2010 when it became the first private company to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit. The company made headlines again in 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft successfully attached to the International Space Station (ISS), exchanged payloads and returned to Earth. This was later repeated in October and then again in March.

However, SpaceX may finally have competition in the aerospace firm Orbital Sciences Corp., whose Antares rocket successfully launched Sunday afternoon in what will likely be its last trial run before its scheduled payload delivery to the ISS this summer.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo successfully demonstrated its "Cold-Flow" procedure April 15 after more than three years of testing.

The event, according to Virigin Group's founder Ricahrd Branson, marked "a key in our progress towards commercial space flight."

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