Earlier this year, SpaceX made history as the first private space company to deliver a payload to the International Space Station. Now, it’s aiming higher — one grasshopper leap at a time.
On Dec. 17, 109 years after Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., SpaceX tested a new rocket, dubbed the Grasshopper, at the company’s facility in McGregor, Texas. Over the course of the 29-second flight, the Grasshopper shot 131 feet into into the air, hovered for eight seconds, and then gracefully lowered itself back to the ground. (By comparison, the Wright brothers’ 1903 flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet.)
The test was the Grasshopper’s third flight, according to Wired, but the first two flights only made it 6 feet and 18 feet off the ground. The 131-foot mark — nearly 12 stories up — is a major advancement for a rocket that SpaceX hopes will someday be a reusable launch vehicle and a major addition to their spacegoing fleet.
Now for a surprise easter egg: perhaps if you look a little bit closer, you might spot a cowboy mannequin on the right side of the spacecraft on the bottom of the structure. According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the mannequin was added to provide a sense of scale.