SpaceX lands prototype Starship spacecraft – without it blowing up
SpaceX has launched and successfully landed its futuristic Starship, finally nailing a test flight of the rocket ship that Elon Musk intends to use to send people to Mars.
The previous four test flights ended in fiery explosions before, during or soon after touchdown at the southeastern tip of Texas, near Brownsville.
This latest upgraded version of SpaceX’s full-scale, stainless steel, bullet-shaped rocket ship soared more than 6 miles over the Gulf of Mexico before flipping and descending horizontally, and then going vertical again just in time for touchdown.
Launch commentator John Insprucker said: ‘Starbase Flight Control has confirmed, as you can see on the live video, we are down. The Starship has landed!’
A fire at the base of the 50-metre rocket was quickly extinguished, and the rocket remained standing after the six-minute flight with Mr Musk tweeting: “Starship landing nominal!”
Success came on the 60th anniversary of the flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and it capped a stunning two weeks of achievements for SpaceX.
This has included the launch of four more astronauts to the space station for Nasa, the nation’s first night-time crew splashdown since the Apollo moonshots, and a pair of launches for its mini internet satellites.
Less than a month ago, Nasa chose SpaceX’s Starship to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface in the next few years.
The 3 billion dollar (£2.15 billion) contract was halted last week, however, after the losing companies – Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics – protested the selection.
Mr Musk said last month that the Nasa money will help development of Starship, which is meant to eventually launch atop a Super Heavy booster.
He said it has been a ‘pretty expensive’ project so far and mostly funded internally.
‘As you can tell, if you’ve been watching the videos, we’ve blown up a few of them. So excitement guaranteed, one way or another,’ Mr Musk told reporters after the private company’s second crew flight on April 23.