23/04/2013 05:50 BST

SpaceX 'Grasshopper': Hovering Rocket Completes Highest Launch And Landing To Date

Space exploration is an expensive business - the average Space Shuttle launch cost a whopping £295 million.

Private space company SpaceX is looking to make it that bit more affordable with its 'Grasshopper' rocket which has just completed its most successful test to date.

The reusable 10-storey tall Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket is able to hover in mid-air before gently returning to Earth and landing upright without any damage.

The Grasshopper in flight

In the latest test the rocket rose to a height of 250m before gracefully descending back to ground level, landing upright despite strong winds.

SpaceX - who are currently fulfilling a $1.6 billion contract with Nasa to resupply the International Space Station - hope kickstart a new era in space travel where rockets land safely and are reused.

Traditional rockets parachute back to Earth but require reassembly before they can be used again whilst external tanks burn up on re-entry into the atmosphere.

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.

The Grasshopper's launch site in Texas

SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, believes the new technology could result in a 10 to 100-times reduction in the cost of space travel.

Musk has high expectations for the technology and hopes the 'Grasshopper' will be flying at supersonic speeds by the end of the year.