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SpaceX's Grasshopper scores with 100-meter sideways leap

The test, in which the Falcon 9 test rig was able to take off, fly to an altitude of 250 meters, and then move laterally 100 meters, is a crucial step in the program's progress.

SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket successfully completed a 100-meter lateral divert test on Tuesday. SpaceX

SpaceX's Grasshopper has successfully pulled off a divert test, the company said today.

On Tuesday, the Falcon 9 test rig flew to an altitude of 250 meters (820.2 feet) and was able to make a 100-meter (328 feet) lateral maneuver before flying back to the center of its launch pad. The company said that the test proved that the Grasshopper has the ability to "perform more aggressive steering maneuvers than have been attempted in previous flights."

The new test was the latest in a series conducted by SpaceX. In March, the company -- co-founded by PayPal and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk -- said that it had successfully completed a test in which it was able to "leap" to about 80.1 meters high, hover for about 34 seconds, and then return safely to the ground.

The significance of the new test, SpaceX said today, is that because Grasshopper is more than 10 stories tall, controlling it during a divert test is a special challenge. Proving that it is possible is an essential element in the Falcon 9 program's progress to re-entering the atmosphere from space at hypersonic velocity, it said.