An experimental reusable rocket built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX has soared though a series of ever-higher test flights over its Texas launch site, but it may have just taken its most awesome leap yet: a sideways rocket hop.
Nicknamed Grasshopper, the rocket prototype successfully performed a sideways "divert" test on Tuesday at SpaceX's proving grounds in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX released an amazing video of the sideways Grasshopper rocket flight Wednesday.
The new video shows SpaceX's Grasshopper launching to an altitude of 820 feet (250 meters). The rocket then went into a hover mode, moved 328 feet (100 m) sideways, and then returned back to the center of its launch pad. From launch to landing, the flight lasted just over one minute.
The Grasshopper rocket, which is officially known as the Falcon 9 test rig at SpaceX, stands roughly 10 stories tall and its large size presents a challenge of control for sideways maneuvers. SpaceX officials said in a statement that the test proved "the vehicle's ability to perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights."
"Diverts like this are an important part of the trajectory in order to land the rocket precisely back at the launch site after re-entering from space at hypersonic velocity," SpaceX officials added.