SpaceX's Innovative Reusable Rocket Soars to 3,300 Feet and Lands Safely (Video)

SpaceX has pushed its new reusable rocket prototype to record heights, just a few short weeks after the vehicle's maiden flight.

A spectacular new SpaceX video shows the company's Falcon 9 Reusable rocket (Falcon 9R for short) soaring to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters), about four times as high as the rocket went during its first flight test last month.

The stunning footage, which was released on Friday (May 2), was captured by a flying drone, providing a bird's-eye view of the action. The video shows the Falcon 9R taking off from SpaceX's rocket-development facility in McGregor, Texas, scaring some nearby cows and then touching down as planned back at the pad about two minutes after launch.

An aerial view of SpaceX's Falcon 9R reusable rocket prototype during a May 1, 2014 launch and landing test that reached an altitude of 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) over McGregor, Texas. (Image credit: SpaceX)

During the May 1 test flight, the Falcon 9R took off with its landing legs extended. In future tests of the rocket, the legs will lie against the side of the rocket initially, then deploy in time for landing, SpaceX representatives have said.

SpaceX is developing reusable rockets in an attempt to dramatically reduce the costs of launching satellites and people into space. Fully and rapidly reusable launch vehicles could make spaceflight 100 times cheaper, company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.

Such rockets could therefore help make a Mars colony much more feasible — a big priority for Musk, who has said that he started SpaceX primarily to make humanity a multiplanet species.

This wide-angle view of SpaceX's Falcon 9R reusable rocket shows the booster lifting off, disturbing a herd of cows, during a May 1, 2014 test flight in McGregor, Texas. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The F9R is very close in design to the Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX already uses to launch its unmanned Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9's first stage is fuelled by oxygen and kerosene and has nine Merlin rocket engines.

SpaceX has been ramping up its reusable-rocket tests lately. During the latest Dragon resupply launch, which took place on April 18, the company succeeded in bringing the Falcon 9's first stage back to Earth for a soft ocean splashdown, a world first. SpaceX also completed tests of its Grasshopper reusable-rocket program last year after a number of successful flights, each of which got progressively higher and more complicated.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: