On November 1, 2012, SpaceX’s Grasshopper – a 10-story vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle -- lifted nearly two stories in an 8-second duration test hop. The rocket rose 17.7 feet (5.4 meters), hovered, and touched back down safely on the pad at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.
The Grasshopper program is a critical step toward achieving SpaceX’s goal of developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets. With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would allow a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.
Grasshopper consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure. For a sense of its scale, note the blue pick-up truck to the left of Grasshopper in the photo above.