SpaceX has created the first reusable rocket. It is ten stories tall and known as the Grasshopper. It is not just in the design stages anymore as it has made several test flights. In the most recent flight it performed a controlled launch up to 820 feet where it hovered and then descended before making a perfect landing in the exact spot where it took off. SpaceX plans to continue increasing the height of the test flights incrementally until the rocket is able to leave the earth’s atmosphere and then return to its launch pad. They are careful to not test the limits of the rocket too soon, as a small accident could cost a lot of time and money to the private company. The ultimate goal with this type of rocket is to use it to ferry humans to and from Mars working to aid colonization on the red planet.
According to the SpaceX, reusable rockets are not only the future of rocket technology, but they are a crucial step if commercial space travel is going to become more affordable. Currently, fuel and oxygen only make up about 0.3% of the overall cost of a rocket. If a rocket could become reusable, the cost of commercial space travel would become 100 times cheaper according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk has stated that all other modes of transportation are reusable, so if space travel is to become a viable means of transportation, the most affordable way to do it would be with a reusable rocket.
Other than having landing gear and being reusable, there is nothing particularly different about the general structure of the Grasshopper. Its aerodynamic profile, material makeup, and fuel type are relatively similar to most other rockets of its size. This is great news because it means that it does not require a new extremely complex rocket design in order for this reusability idea to work. Because of this level of practicality, I imagine that we will see most rocket companies making the transition to reusable designs within our lifetimes.