SpaceX’s test flight of Starship prototype, Serial Number 15 or SN15 went off without a hitch today May 6th, 2021. Following 4 Starship prototypes that exploded upon landing after their high-altitude flight tests, the SN15 landed safely.
The launch took place at SpaceX’s South Texas facility. Starship flown about 6 miles (10 km) upwards then returned to Earth landing upright. SpaceX calls Starship a “fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars and beyond.” NASA has chosen this system as the moon lander for its crewed Artemis program, intended to carry the first man since the 1970s, and first woman ever, to the moon in this decade.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the landing, “Starship landing nomina!.” That meant that a launch or other space activity has gone according to plan.
The prototype underwent a series of tests last week. The high-altitude test flight was then scheduled toward the end of last week (April 30), but it was delayed several times. Now the high-altitude test has been accomplished. The final system will be paired with a giant SpaceX rocket booster known as Super Heavy.
SN15 was the fifth Starship prototype to attempt this upward flight in less than five months. The four before it – SN8 through SN11 – all flew well until the very end, when each exploded in a dramatic show of fire. SN10 landed in one piece, but blew up on the landing pad about eight minutes later.
SN11’s launch took place about a month ago on March 30, soaring to its maximum altitude as planned, then exploding upon landing due to a “plumbing problem,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced a week later. Essentially, there was too much methane in the combustion chamber and the pressure was therefore too high.
The newest prototype, SN15, was equipped with many “adjustments,” to keep it from exploding. SpaceX has built a reputation for persevering through failure, and it has the funds and resources to continue building prototypes and trying again. Both Starship and Super Heavy will be fully and rapidly reusable, potentially cutting the cost of spaceflight dramatically, Elon Musk has said.