Four months ago, privately owned space launch company SpaceX lofted its experimental "Grasshopper" vertical takeoff-and-landing rocket 263 feet into the air -- doubling its previous record -- before safely returning it to Earth under its own power. The latest test made that last feat look easy.
In a video posted Friday on YouTube, SpaceX shows its latest Grasshopper demo rocketing an astounding 1,066 feet, bobbling briefly as its gyros adjusted, and then safely lowering itself back down onto its launch pad. The test happened June 14. In other words, in just three months' time, SpaceX increased the height to which Grasshopper can hop by more than four times.
In an explanation of the details of the test flight, SpaceX notes that the latest test utilized "closed loop control flight algorithms" in conjunction with the spacecraft's "full navigation sensor suite ... adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing."
SpaceX is the third of PayPal founder Elon Musk's big tech companies, which include solar power lessor SolarCity and electric-car maker Tesla Motors. It's also the only one said to be currently profitable and the only one Musk has not yet floated in a public IPO.