SpaceX's Starship rocket makes a successful landing
Sylvie Claire / May 6, 2021
A prototype of the giant Starship rocket developed by SpaceX, whose four previous test flights had ended in impressive explosions, successfully landed on Wednesday, according to a video broadcast by the company.
Starship landing nominal! tweeted Elon Musk, boss of Tesla and SpaceX. Which means in space vocabulary that the maneuver actually went smoothly.
Flames were leaking from the base of the rocket shortly after landing, according to a video broadcast by the company, but appeared to be extinguished by water cannons a few minutes later.
Such a fire is not unusual given the mass of fuel used by the massive 50-meter tall craft, explained a SpaceX commentator during the live video, John Insprucker.
This prototype, named SN15 for Serial Number 15, took off vertically with its three engines from Boca Chica, Texas, and the vehicle then flipped over to a horizontal position in the air.
SpaceX did not specify if it had succeeded in reaching the 10 kilometers of altitude, its objective, as during the preceding tests. The rocket then went down to land on a track very close to the place of takeoff, by replacing itself before in the vertical.
At the beginning of March, another prototype, SN10, had also succeeded in landing, but it had finally exploded a few minutes after having landed.
Previously, SN8 and SN9 had been launched respectively in December and at the beginning of February, but had crashed in large fireballs at the time of their return on the ground.
Finally, at the end of March, SN11 had taken off in a thick fog, but the test had also ended in an explosion.
These tests are taking place in a near-deserted area near the border with Mexico and on the Gulf of Mexico -- a place empty enough that an accident or explosion would not cause damage or casualties.
Starship is set to become SpaceX's rocket of choice to go to Mars one day.