SpaceX launched and landed an upgraded prototype for the company’s next-generation Starship vehicle in South Texas on Wednesday, the company’s first Starship test flight since winning a $2.9 billion NASA contract to use the craft to land astronauts on the Moon.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO tweeted: “Starship landing nominal!”
The 164-foot-tall (50-meter) stainless steel rocket flew to an altitude of about 33,000 feet (10 kilometers) over SpaceX’s rocket development and test facility in Cameron County, Texas, after lifting off at 6:24 p.m. EDT (2224 GMT). Around six minutes after takeoff, the rocket landed vertically back at the same test site at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville.
Three Raptor engines consuming methane and liquid oxygen propellants powered the rocket into the sky, before the engines shut down in a staggered sequence as the Starship neared the high point of its trajectory. After the final engine switches off, cold gas control thrusters and body flaps maneuvered the vehicle to a horizontal orientation for the descent back to the ground.
Moments before the Starship reached the ground the Raptor engines reignited to flip the rocket vertical again and slowed it down for a gentle landing.
SpaceX has successfully launched four ...