Video SpaceX’s latest test of its Starship vehicle has stuck its landing for the first time.
On Wednesday, US time, Starship serial number 15 (SN15) ascended to 10,000 metres, turned off its three raptor engines, and then belly-flopped back toward Earth.
The belly-flop phase of the flight was intentional: the craft has four flaps that let it control its descent.
The craft’s rockets eventually restarted, as planned, the craft righted itself and then landed, with just a small methane fire giving immediate concerns to ground crew.
Here’s a vid of the flight’s final minute.
Previous test flights of the Starship have had little problem going up, but lots of trouble coming down. In March 2021, another prototype blew up on landing. A February 2021 effort landed and then blew up a few minutes later.
A December 2020 effort also ended with rapid unplanned disassembly.
The versions of Starship used in all four tests use the expected dimensions of the eventual production craft, and fewer engines. SpaceX also used Starship alone, despite plans to place the vehicle atop the biz's forthcoming Super Heavy rocket.
Flights that end with fireballs are therefore not entirely desirable, but also not unexpected.
Starship’s spec calls for it to handle payloads of 100 metric tonnes or more, inside a faring capable of carrying cargo nine metres in diameter and eighteen metres high. By way of contrast, remember that China last week launched a 4.2m x 16.6m section of its new space station, and it weighed just 22.5 tonnes. But while SpaceX aims for Starship and the Super Heavy to be re-usable, China’s Long March rocket might fall on you this coming weekend.
Also on Wednesday, SpaceX landed a Falcon 9 rocket that it has now reused nine times. ®