SpaceX Successfully Launches and Lands Starship Prototype Rocket in Short Flight Test

SpaceX‘s next-generation Starship rocket‘s fifth prototype passed yesterday its most important test yet, launching and then landing in a short flight on Tuesday at the company’s facility in Texas.

Starship prototype Serial Number 5 (SN5), of about 100 feet tall, took off slowly and rose about 500 feet above the ground before it returned to land on a concrete zone close to the launchpad.

​”Progress is accelerating,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the successful flight.

Making Cost-Saving Advances Obsolete

SpaceX owns a fleet of rockets that it employs to launch satellites and astronauts, onboard of its Falcon 9 rocket that has already launched to space 87 times and also landed its boosters after 48 of those take-offs. However, Starship is the company’s aim to normalize the cost-saving advanced of its Falcon 9 rockets.

While Falcon 9 rockets are mostly reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship completely reusable by creating a rocket that is more similar to a commercial airplane, with short turnaround times between flights where the only expensive cost is fuel.

Elon Musk revealed the Starship prototype last year, build of stainless steel and eclipsing the space company’s existing spacecraft. SpaceX is creating Starship with the aim of launching as many as 100 people at a time on expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

After the company launched in May a pair of NASA astronauts in its first manned mission, Musk changed the company’s attention, announcing that the SpaceX priority is now the development of Starship. Musk said in an email sent to the company that Starship’s program has to accelerate ‘dramatically and immediately.’

SpaceX published a video of the flight test captured by an aerial drone and a camera underneath the rocket that depicted the Raptor engine, and the legs deploy for landing.

President Donald Trump was among those who also shared the video of the SN5 flight. Even though it wasn’t a NASA test, leaders of the agency were paying attention to the SpaceX test. NASA associate administrator Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen has also offered his congratulations to SpaceX on the successful flight.​

Starship is one of SpaceX’s ambitious projects, for which the company has raised more about $3.5 billion in private capital to fund. Still, after a successful test flight a year ago completed by a previous model, known as Starhopper, the Starship program encountered a few explosive setbacks in development.

The Starship Program is Accelerated

Those setbacks are part of Elon Musk’s motivation for asking more than 8,000 SpaceX employees to spend more time in Texas, even offering the company’s jet for use if people are willing to move from the other facilities located in California and Florida.

The amazing relocation offer shows how important Musk sees the Starship program. SpaceX is already bidding for NASA contracts with the project, with a recent win of $135 million to compete against Jeff BezosBlue Origin to transport astronauts to the Moon.

Musk unveiled in a few tweets what the next steps for Starship’s development will be. He said that the company will perform ‘several short hops to smooth out launch process’ before adding more parts to the rocket for high altitude flights.

In addition, the stubby legs below the rocket won’t remain as Musk said the next model will be about ’60 percent longer’ with later iterations being ‘much wider and taller.’

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