SpaceX recently took to the skies with its Grasshopper rocket in order to test its precision navigation sensor suite. While this was no maiden voyage for the rocket, it is the first time that the rocket fully utilized the navigation suite.
The Grasshopper is an experimental suborbital reusable launch vehicle (RLV) that SpaceX designed to assist in the development of the company's other reusable rockets. On most existing rockets, the early rocket stages separate from the rocket and burn up in the atmosphere—a tremendous waste of material and money.
Because most rockets and rocket stages either burn up during re-entry or are recovered via parachute (or, like the space shuttle, land like a plane) they do not require extremely accurate navigation sensors (though I wouldn't slack too much there!). But since SpaceX wants to land rockets in an upright position, the Grasshopper comes equipped with sensors that are more accurate than what you'll find on a typical rocket.
On this particular flight, the Grasshopper flew to 1066 feet, which is higher than the Chrysler Building in Manhattan (which stands 1046 feet tall counting the spire) and is a new personal record for the little guy. The Grasshopper still has a long way to go before it's usable as a launch vehicle, but this development is a good step toward that goal.
This story, "SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket achieves a new personal best in test flight" was originally published by TechHive.