SpaceX Grasshopper makes its highest flight yet

The Grasshopper made it 250m in the air, hovered, and landed back down.

SpaceX, the space transport company founded by former PayPal founder Elon Musk, just carried out its most successful test yet of it's "Grasshopper" vertical take-off and landing system. In a short flight earlier this week, the rocket rose 250m in the air, hovered, and then returned to the ground:

The system is a testbed for one of SpaceX's broader goals, developing "fully and rapidly" reusable rockets. Current generation launch vehicles are comprised of several stages, the majority of which either burn up in the atmosphere after use, or, at best, splash down in the ocean where they much be collected and repaired at great expense.

If the Grasshopper system – which consists of a modified version of the first stage tank of the company's flagship Falcon 9 rocket, the first private vehicle to visit the International Space Station – scales up, it would allow the company to reuse rockets with little delay. That's a crucial element to almost every plan for making fully private space travel economical, but there's still a long way to go.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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What did Jeremy Corbyn really say about Bin Laden?

He's been critiqued for calling Bin Laden's death a "tragedy". But what did Jeremy Corbyn really say?

Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for describing Bin Laden’s death as a “tragedy” in the Sun, but what did the Labour leadership frontrunner really say?

In remarks made to Press TV, the state-backed Iranian broadcaster, the Islington North MP said:

“This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died.”

He also added that it was his preference that Osama Bin Laden be put on trial, a view shared by, among other people, Barack Obama and Boris Johnson.

Although Andy Burnham, one of Corbyn’s rivals for the leadership, will later today claim that “there is everything to play for” in the contest, with “tens of thousands still to vote”, the row is unlikely to harm Corbyn’s chances of becoming Labour leader. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.