SpaceX Lands Starship Prototype


SpaceX wrapped up the fifth high-altitude flight test of its Starship prototype with a successful landing on Wednesday evening. The prototype used for Wednesday’s flight, SN15, is the first to avoid what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has termed “rapid unscheduled disassembly” during testing. While the testing procedure was similar to that of the four previous high-altitude test flights, the SN15 prototype included some design changes.

“SN15 has vehicle improvements across structures, avionics and software, and the engines that will allow more speed and efficiency throughout production and flight: specifically, a new enhanced avionics suite, updated propellant architecture in the aft skirt, and a new Raptor engine design and configuration,” SpaceX said.

The flight lasted 6 minutes 8 seconds, launching from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, at 6:24 p.m. eastern time. As planned, SN15 reached an altitude of approximately 10 kilometers before performing a flip maneuver to reorient itself for reentry. SpaceX is designing the Starship to carry crew and cargo to Earth’s orbit, the Moon and Mars.

Video: SpaceX
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Good to see.

    I knew given enough time and money the engineers would get it figured out.

    Now the question is was this luck or did they make substantive changes that improved the vehicle.

  2. Sorta reminds me of the sci fi movies of the 1950’s. On the other hand, Flash Gordon, circa 1930’s, landed horizontally, and just walked out the door.

  3. Or as my nephew noted the other day:

    “I see they managed to land the flying grain silo without blowing it up”

  4. Well, some success for Musk this month.

    Actually got self-loading cargo back to earth.

    I view his machines as prototypes – note many changes made since last attempted flight of this model.

  5. Elsewhere, the US military is not committing to shooting down a big Communist Chinese chunk of space debris:

    No fun. :-o)

    Conspiracy theorists will be flapping over sightings of debris burning up in the atmosphere, as they were over one of Musk’s machines weeks ago. (It was visible over WA and OR and perhaps SW BC, reports from elsewhere may have been people’s imaginations (aka fantasies).

  6. I noticed that they landed on two engines, not just one as had been the practice. Maybe that gave them the control edge to get it down clean. You can see two plumes dancing around as they gimbal.

    The narrator spoke of landing on one engine, but they clearly landed on two.