The SpaceX team attempted a high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 15 (SN15) – our fifth high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from Starbase in Texas. SN15 has vehicle improvements across structures, avionics and software, and the engines that will allow more speed and efficiency throughout production and flight: specifically, a new enhanced avionics suite, updated propellant architecture in the aft skirt, and a new Raptor engine design and configuration.
Similar to previous high-altitude flight tests of Starship, SN15 is powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude. SN15 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.
The Starship prototype descended under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location. SN15’s Raptor engines then reignited as the vehicle attempted a landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down on the landing ...