Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has achieved the highest “hop” of its Grasshopper vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle (VTVL), reaching almost 263 ft. on March 9 at the company’s test site in McGregor, Texas. The VTVL, combining a modified Falcon 9 first stage, landing legs and a Merlin 1D engine, first flew last September. The testbed is a key element of SpaceX’s longer-term ambition to develop a reusable booster to lower launch costs. Following separation from the second ...

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