American aerospace giant, SpaceX, has reportedly piloted the 15th prototype of its Starship completely reusable next-gen rocket through a planned test flight. This included a successful climb to approximately 30,000 ft, and a controlled flip, descent as well as soft landing upright.
A small fire, which was later contained, supposedly broke out at the base of the rocket soon after the landing. Apparently, the craft was powered through three Raptor rocket engines, which shuttered in sequence before the vehicle reached apogee, which was its highest point at around 10km.
This move is considered a big milestone for SpaceX, as it has flown prototypes before but with no luck seeing tests conclude while keeping the test vehicle intact.
Reportedly, prototypes SN8 and SN9 saw destruction while trying to land, whereas SN10 exploded shortly post its landing. In addition, SpaceX’s last test launch, SN11, also ended in an explosion causing a total loss of the rocket just before the touchdown.
The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, confirmed the good touchdown of 150-foot SN15 following the conclusion of the livestream launch. He hailed it as a key step in the development of Starship’s orbital capabilities, which would necessitate the vehicle to execute this landing maneuver after it is launched to space over a Super Heavy booster rocket, and whilst making the return trip from orbit.
Sources close to the matter have stated that SN15 also features multiple vehicle improvements within the structures, avionics, and software, including engines that would allow high speed and efficiency throughout the production and flight. It also comprises a newly enhanced avionics suite, an updated propellant architecture within the aft skirt, as well as a new Raptor engine design and configuration.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently gave its authorization to SpaceX to conduct its subsequent three test flights in its Starship program, including the upcoming flight. Reportedly, the next two would be flights of the SN16 and SN17 Starships.