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Image Credit: SpaceX.

Starship SN15 safely lands back on Earth after test flight

Yesterday evening, May 05, 2021, the American rocket manufacturer, launch provider and satellite operator SpaceX successfully performed a high-altitude test flight of the company’s Starship SN15 prototype vehicle.

The rocket blasted off from SpaceX’ Starship Launch Site near Boca Chica Village in South Texas, ascending to an altitude of about 10 kilometers. Prior to reaching its apogee, two of the three Raptor rocket engines were intentionally shut down to reduce the generated thrust. Once SN15 had reached its maximum altitude, the rocket shut down its final engine and transitioned from vertical into a horizontal position ahead of the descend back to the surface. To steer itself to its landing pad and to hold its horizontal position, the Starship used four aerodynamic surfaces, which were controlled by the rocket’s onboard flight computer. Shortly before landing, SN15 reignited its engines to perform the landing flip maneuver and the landing burn, which slows the vehicle down before touch down. About six minutes after liftoff, Starhip SN15 safely landed back on Earth not far from its launch pad.

Starship SN15 fires its three Raptor rocket engines. Image Credit: SpaceX.
Starship SN15 fires its three Raptor rocket engines. Image Credit: SpaceX.
SN15 performes its landing burn. Image Credit: SpaceX.
SN15 performes its landing burn. Image Credit: SpaceX.
The rocket back on the ground. Image Credit: SpaceX.
The rocket back on the ground. Image Credit: SpaceX.

Yesterday’s launch was the fifth high-altitude test flight (Starship SN8, SN9, SN10, SN11 and SN15) performed by a full-scale Starship vehicle. All Starships however except SN10 and SN15 exploded during landing (SN8 and SN9) or seconds before (SN11). Starship SN10 also managed to land back on the planet, but suffered a rapid unscheduled disassembly about 15 minutes later due to damages sustained during the hard landing.

Starship SN15, as well as its predecessors, is the prototype upper stage of the Starship Superheavy rocket, a two-stage, fully-reusable, super heavy-lift launch vehicle, which is currently developed by SpaceX. With this 120 m tall rocket, the company hopes to carry the first humans to Mars within this decade and to establish a permanent settlement on the red planet until 2050.

Artist rendering of Starships on Mars. Credit: SpaceX
Artist rendering of Starships on Mars. Credit: SpaceX.

Click here to rewatch the flight of Starship SN15.


Sources

https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/starship/index.html

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