New rocket hovers like helicopter

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
SpaceX's Grasshopper testbed to develop a reusable launcher made its maiden hop from the company's rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas.On Friday, September 21, 2012. By Catherine Holland SpaceX's Grasshopper testbed to develop a reusable launcher made its maiden hop from the company's rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas.On Friday, September 21, 2012. By Catherine Holland
SpaceX's test site in McGregor, Texas. By Catherine Holland SpaceX's test site in McGregor, Texas. By Catherine Holland
Cowboy pictured on the rocket. By Catherine Holland Cowboy pictured on the rocket. By Catherine Holland
Here you can barely see the dark mass at the base of the rocket that is the dummy cowboy. By Catherine Holland Here you can barely see the dark mass at the base of the rocket that is the dummy cowboy. By Catherine Holland

MCGREGOR, Texas -- Rockets generally have one direction -- up. And once launched, up is where they go. Instead of landing, rockets break up as they fall back to Earth or splash down into the ocean, which means they are single-use hardware.

A new rocket, however, defies that, hovering like a helicopter and making a vertical landing.

The company SpaceX recently launched a successful test flight of its "Grasshopper" rocket, and released the above video late Sunday.

After launch, it hovers in the air -- and lands vertically and very softly instead of breaking up.

The Grasshopper has the potential to change space flight as we know it and, as a reusable rocket, save a significant of money in the process.

SpaceX has done previous Grasshopper test flights, but this one was a lot higher -- a full 12 stories -- and lasted a lot longer, nearly 30 seconds. A Grasshopper flight, which took place in September, went up only six feet. The next flight in November went up nearly 18 feet -- about two stories -- and hovered briefly.

Multi-view video of Dec. 17 test launch

Future test launches are expected to increase in complexity, including height and duration.

The Grasshopper is 10 stories tall and stands on four steel landing legs and a steel support structure.

Earlier this year, the private space flight company carried cargo to the International Space Station - and it hopes to take people there soon.