American billionaire Elon Musk-owned Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) pulled off an almost flawless landing of its newest and biggest rocket, as the model’s fifth test flight opened the possibility of higher altitude excursions.
The Starship SN-15 prototype lifted off on 5th May from SpaceX’s seaside launchpad from Texas (US). The rocket flew to an altitude of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) before a controlled descent, based on live video streamed by the company. The landing was affected only by a small fire at the bottom of the vehicle that was extinguished after a few minutes.
The milestone achievement paves the way for more ambitious tests of a rocket that SpaceX founder Elon Musk envisions to conduct trips to the moon and Mars in the future. US governmental space agency NASA recently picked SpaceX to develop a moon-landing system for astronauts with Starship. The company also envisions the stainless steel behemoth as eventually being capable of reducing travel times across Earth with hypersonic, point-to-point trips.
The previous Starship rocket test flight, on March 30, sent smoking debris raining down on the area after an accident. An earlier prototype touched down at a slight incline, only to be engulfed in flames shortly after landing. Two previous efforts ended in fireballs. No people were aboard any of the spacecraft.
SpaceX designed the Starship as a versatile, fully reusable craft that can carry 100 metric tons. Excluding a booster rocket that creates a two-stage system, Starship is 160 feet high with a 30-foot diameter, able to carry as many as 100 passengers.