SpaceX 'Grasshopper': Reusable 'Hover Rocket' Could Cut Space Travel Costs By 100 Times

The private space company SpaceX has completed the latest test of its new reusable rocket.

The 'Grasshopper' is a 10 storey rocket which is able to hover in mid-air and land without taking any damage.

In the latest test SpaceX sent the rocket up 80 metres, hovered it for 34 seconds and then gave it a deliberately hard landing.

The grasshopper is made of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage tank, a Merlin 1D engine, four steel and aluminium landing legs with hydraulic dampers.

SpaceX - who are currently fulfilling a $1.6 billion contract with Nasa to resupply the International Space Station - hope it could kickstart a new era in space travel where rockets land safely and are reused instead of burning up on re-entry.

The result could be a 10 to 100-times reduction in the cost of space travel, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

At the SXSW conference in Texas Musk said he wants Grasshopper to fly at supersonic speeds before the end of the year.

SpaceX said:

"Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad. At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9. Today’s test was completed at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

Grasshopper, SpaceX’s vertical and takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle, continues SpaceX’s work toward one of its key goals – developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets, a feat that will transform space exploration by radically reducing its cost. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would enable a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere."