June 14, 2024

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Tests move from explosions to landings

Tests move from explosions to landings

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SpaceX’s Starship, the largest and most powerful spacecraft ever sent into space, completed its fourth test flight on Thursday, successfully landing in the Indian Ocean for the first time since it began conducting test flights last year. The first three tests of the missile ended in explosions.

The unmanned vehicle is classified as a super-heavy launch vehicle and serves the ultimate goal of ferrying astronauts back and forth between Earth, the Moon and even Mars.

Thursday’s successful test is good news for NASA, which awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract in 2021 to develop the first commercial human lander for the Artemis III mission to the moon scheduled for 2026.

Here’s what’s happened in all four Starship launch tests so far, illustrating the gradual improvement SpaceX has made since its inaugural test in April 2023.

June 6, 2024: The spacecraft completed its first-ever successful landing on the fourth test flight

The Starship spacecraft conducted its most successful test for the fourth time, lifting off from SpaceX’s Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, at 8:50 a.m. ET Thursday morning.

The vehicle experienced successful separation from the booster rocket, resulting in 32 of the 33 engines igniting properly during launch, about seven minutes into the flight.

The booster successfully returned to Earth and dropped into the Gulf of Mexico as planned, and all six of the spacecraft’s engines powered it to a successful orbital insertion.

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The heat shields protecting the outside of the vehicle took a hit, with at least one throwing debris at one of the live broadcast’s external cameras, but it was able to successfully reenter Earth’s atmosphere.

After about an hour and six minutes of flight, Starship completed its first-ever landing and plunged into the Indian Ocean to rapturous applause.

March 14, 2024: The spacecraft reaches space before getting lost in the atmosphere in a third test flight

In the third test, the spacecraft succeeded in separating from the booster and entering orbit within minutes of launch, as it conducted a series of in-flight tests while flying through space.

A video of its journey back to Earth was broadcast using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network, and was able to capture the beginning of the spacecraft’s reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. However, the signal was lost about an hour into the mission before SpaceX concluded that the vehicle would likely explode.

Despite Starship’s failure to make a planned landing in the Indian Ocean, SpaceX said the rocket still achieved several key milestones, including the successful firing of its 33 Raptor engines in the booster and opening of the payload door.

NASA Administrator Test praised As an optimistic development. “I was absolutely blown away,” said Dan Huett, SpaceX’s director of communications, who helped host the live webcast. “We are further along than we were before.”

November 18, 2023: The spacecraft travels further on a second test flight, but still explodes

During the spacecraft’s second test launch, the rocket stayed longer and achieved some milestones, but eventually exploded.

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The booster was able to successfully separate from the missile that reached space before the ground crew lost contact with it nine minutes later. Three minutes later, SpaceX lost both the rocket and spacecraft in two explosions.

Instead of seeing this as a setback, SpaceX expressed optimism about the stage separation while saying the rest would just be valuable data to help them address whatever went wrong.

“The real accomplishment today is that successful launch,” SpaceX commentator John Innsbrucker said after the November test. As reported by the Associated Press. For the first time, all 33 booster engines fired as designed and the booster separated seamlessly from the spaceship as it reached an altitude of 92 miles, Innsbrucker noted.

April 20, 2023: The spacecraft explodes minutes after launching on its inaugural test flight

The spacecraft got off to a rocky start when it exploded just four minutes into its inaugural test flight on April 20.

The vehicle was able to launch from SpaceX’s Starbase, but telemetry data revealed that several of the spacecraft’s engines had failed, leading to an explosion before the booster and spacecraft could separate.

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SpaceX Starship explodes on first launch attempt after engine failure

The SpaceX Starship rocket exploded about four minutes after launch after five of its 33 Raptor engines failed and the spacecraft began to spin.

Connor Laing, USA Today

SpaceX later confirmed the rocket’s flight termination system It has been activated To destroy the stumbling vehicle before it reaches its fiery end.

Eric Lagata covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected]

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