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SpaceX founder Elon Musk dreams of returning humanity to the Moon and building the first city on Mars. The ambitious goal is in the process of becoming a reality with every Starship test flight conducted at the South Texas launch facility located at Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County, TX. Musk calls the region ‘Starbase’ from where hundreds of Starships will embark on voyages to the lunar surface and the Red Planet. Multiple stainless-steel Starship prototypes have conducted high-altitude flight tests in the past year, during which the vehicles soared approximately 10-kilometers above Boca Chica Beach powered by methane-fueled Raptor engines. Every flight test has completed key objectives, including incredible aerodynamic flights that demonstrated how the vehicle’s flaps can efficiently control its descent while the engines are shutdown then reignited for a propulsive landing. However, the four previous prototypes exploded upon landing.
Today, May 5, SpaceX’s Starship SN15 blasted off under cloudy sky and finally aced the landing! Space enthusiasts in South Texas gathered at South Padre Island to watch Starship SN15’s flight test. The small Island is situated around 5-miles-away from Boca Chica Beach across the ocean. The 50-meter-tall Starship SN15 vehicle soared 10-kilometers into the cloudy sky at around 5:24 p.m. Central Time (local). SN15 was nearly invisible to see during the six-minute-long flight due to foggy weather conditions in the region. A TESMANIAN correspondent was only able to capture footage of the liftoff and incredible landing, shown in the video below. Congratulations SpaceX!
TESMANIAN: Starship SN15 Flight Test Video
Soon after the successful landing, spectators at the beach cheered with excitement –it is the first time SpaceX aces the landing without any incident. Musk announced –“Starship landing nominal!” he wrote via Twitter. According to Musk, Starship SN15 features ‘hundreds of design improvements' compared to the previous prototypes of the spacecraft. “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,” SpaceX representatives stated. "These test flights of Starship are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system [...]." The vehicle is also equipped with a Starlink dish that connects to the company’s broadband satellite constellation. It is the first Starship to feature a dish antenna to connect to the internet network that currently has around 1,560 internet-beaming satellites which provide high-speed internet. Engineers planned to test the hardware and internet service during today’s test flight.
Today’s successful landing shows SpaceX investors and customers that the spacecraft’s development is on track and going well. Musk plans to launch the first Starship to orbit by summer this year. Starship SN16 through SN19 are already under assembly. SN20 is the prototype that is expected to conduct the first test launch to space. Engineers aim to have Starship ready to carry astronauts in less than four years. The first crewed voyage around the moon, booked by Yusaku Maezawa, is scheduled for 2023. And NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 Billion dollar Human Landing System (HLS) contract under the Artemis program to land astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024. You can watch Starship SN15’s full flight test in the video below, courtesy of SpaceX. Author's note: Thanks for supporting TESMANIAN! Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
SpaceX Starship SN15 Flight Test Video
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.