Story at a glance
- On Wednesday, the Starship SN15 launched from the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas, reaching an altitude of more than 6 miles.
- The spacecraft successfully carried out its landing maneuver without exploding.
- The success marks a milestone in improving the development of a fully reusable spacecraft.
SpaceX has successfully launched and landed an updated prototype of its next-generation Starship spacecraft after several previous attempts ended in fiery explosions upon landing.
On Wednesday, the Starship SN15 launched from the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas, reaching an altitude of more than 6 miles.
As it reached peak altitude, the spacecraft’s three Raptor engines gradually shut down to begin a horizontal descent back to Earth.
The spacecraft then reignited two engines to maneuver itself back to the vertical position as it approached the ground and touched down on its landing gear.
A fire burned at the base of the rocket after its engines cut off but an automated fire-suppression system shot water onto the landing pad and extinguished the blaze.
“We are down, the Starship has landed,” SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker said during commentary of the landing.
“Starship landing nominal!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.
The success marks a milestone in improving the development of a fully reusable spacecraft that could carry both crew and cargo on interplanetary flights. SpaceX is aiming to use the spacecraft to take humans to the Moon and one day travel to Mars.
All four previous high-altitude prototypes exploded upon attempting to land.
The landing comes after SpaceX was recently chosen by NASA to develop the spacecraft that will take astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission. NASA’s Artemis mission is expected to fly astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
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