SpaceX Celebrates Successful Landing of Starship

Starship | Image by SpaceX/X account

The successful landing of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket, known as Starship, made history on Thursday.

A Starship spacecraft and a Super Heavy rocket paired together, making history as the first successful, safe return of the world’s largest rocket to Earth, per a SpaceX news release.

This was the fourth flight after the three previous starships exploded during different stages following takeoff.

The spacecraft and rocket represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and beyond.

“Starship’s fourth flight test launched with ambitious goals, attempting to go farther than any previous test before and begin demonstrating capabilities central to return and reuse of Starship and Super Heavy. The payload for this test was the data,” SpaceX posted on social media Thursday.

Highlights from the test flight were posted on the SpaceX website, including:

  • The Super Heavy booster lifted off successfully and completed a full-duration ascent burn.
  • Starship executed another successful hot-stage separation, powering down all but three of Super Heavy’s Raptor engines and successfully igniting the six-second stage Raptor engines before separating the vehicles.
  • Following separation, the Super Heavy booster completed its flip maneuver, boostback burn to send it towards the splashdown zone, and jettison of the hot-stage adapter.
  • The booster’s flight ended with a landing burn and soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico seven minutes and 24 seconds into the flight.
  • The Starship’s six second-stage Raptor engines successfully powered the vehicle into space and placed it on the planned trajectory for the coast.
  • Starship made a controlled reentry, successfully completing the phases of peak heating and max aerodynamic pressure and demonstrating the ability to control the vehicle using its flaps while descending through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
  • Starlink on Starship once again enabled real-time telemetry and live high-definition video throughout every phase of entry, with external cameras providing views all the way to the flight’s conclusion.
  • Flight 4 ended with Starship igniting its three center Raptor engines and executing the first flip maneuver and landing burn since our suborbital campaign, followed by a soft splashdown of the ship in the Indian Ocean one hour and six minutes after launch.
  • Musk noted on social media that many tiles were lost and a flap was damaged, but despite that, he congratulated the SpaceX team on an “epic achievement.”

The night before the test flight, he indicated that his main concern would be the Starship’s heat shield. Musk was right as the spot burned through.

“Not a difficult prediction! We will have this nailed for the next flight,” he wrote on social media.

Musk further noted in a separate post that a newer version of Starship has the forward flaps shifted leeward to improve reliability, ease manufacturing, and propel the payload to orbit.

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