SpaceX scores first successful Starship landing

Photo: AP

US high-tech company SpaceX announced it had achieved in successfully landing its Starship prototype, Reuters reported. Before the safe touchdown, the company owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has conceded four failures which resulted in crashes and explosions on landing. The latest test involved a next-generation launch vehicle in south Texas.

It marked a key milestone for the private rocket company in its development of a resusable heavy-lift launch vehicle to eventually carry astronauts and large cargo payloads to the moon and Mars. The Starship SN15 blasted off from the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, along the Gulf Coast and reached its planned maximum altitude of 10 kilometres, then hovered momentarily before flying nose-down under aerodynamic control back toward Earth. Maneuvering itself back into vertical position under rocket thrust as it approached the ground, the 16-story, three-engine vehicle descended to a gentle touchdown on its landing gear. "We are down, the Starship has landed," SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker said during live commentary for the flight.

A video feed of the landing showed flames continuing to burn at the base of the rocket after the engines cut off, but an automated fire-suppression system trained a steady stream of water onto the landing pad, eventually extinguishing the blaze. The flight came on the 60th anniversary of the first spaceflight by an American astronaut - Alan Shepard's launch on a 15-minute suborbital mission atop NASA's Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year’s end. Musk has said he intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with the Starship in 2023.

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