SpaceX has successfully landed a prototype of its next generation starship rocket, a major success for the private space company.
A video of the six-minute flight (above) shows the rocket taking a slow and careful approach to the landing site, similarly to SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket landing at the end of its mission.
Three of the four previous attempts to land the rocket ended in explosions after a heavy landing, while an anomaly caused the second starship prototype to explode within minutes that previously seemed to be a decent landing. However, in the fifth attempt, the SN15 prototype was seen making a perfect touchdown, with no post-landing anomalies reported.
SpaceX’s successful attempt took place on Wednesday May 5 at its test site in Boca Cheeka, Texas.
In a short post on Twitter, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed the correct mission, saying: “Starship Landing Nominal!”
Nominal Landing Starship!
& mdash; Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 5 May, 2021
At the end of the mission, SpaceX engineer and flight commentator, John Inspucker, said: “The last two weeks have been full of achievements by the SpaceX team,” highlighting the launch of Crew-2 astronauts at the International Space Station, Crew-1 The first night recovery of crew dragon astronauts with the return of astronauts, and two successful Falcon 9 flights in the last seven days.
As with the previous high-altitude test flights of the starship, the SN15 prototype used its three Raptor engines to run around 6.2 miles (10 km). It then demonstrated a mid-air flip maneuver in preparation for a controlled landing, using its engine to bring it closer to the launch site.
SpaceX is designing the starship as a reusable second-stage rocket and spacecraft that will seat SpaceX’s under-development super heavy rockets for missions on the Moon and Mars, and possibly even further into deep space. The final design will be capable of carrying cargo and a crew of up to 100 people.
SpaceX has said that it hopes to launch the powerful Super Heavy rocket and starship together on a superbital test flight early this July, although that date may slip.