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SpaceX Starship launch: Fourth test succeeds as both stages splash into sea

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Starship took off from Boca Chica, Texas

SpaceX

SpaceX’s Starship, the largest rocket ever built, successfully completed a fourth test flight, with both its first and second stages carrying out their missions as planned before crashing into different oceans.

After liftoff from the SpaceX site in Boca Chica, Texas, at 7:50 a.m. local time, one of the 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy first stage failed to ignite. Despite this, the rocket continued into space and both stages separated cleanly.

Super Heavy landed as planned about 7 minutes after takeoff in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from the launch site. The booster successfully ignited its engines after falling back to Earth from more than 100 kilometers high, decelerating from more than 4,000 kilometers per hour to hover just a few meters above the sea, before the live feed went live. cut and sink into the water.

Meanwhile, Starship reached an orbit at an altitude of more than 200 kilometers and traveled at more than 27,000 kilometers per hour. During its descent back to Earth, about 60 kilometers above the surface, a video streamed live from SpaceX showed apparent damage to one of its four control fins and the camera lens appeared to crack. When she reached the Indian Ocean, she appeared to float before falling into the sea.

This fourth flight test focused on taking Starship out of orbit after its previous test reached space for the first time. SpaceX opted to make “soft landings” in the ocean because a land landing is currently considered too risky. Instead, the vehicles use their engines to slow their descent, line up as if they were landing back at base, and gently drop into the water.

Over time, the hope is that returning from space to dry land will allow the vehicles to be restored and reused, as SpaceX already does with its Falcon 9 rocket.

Today’s launch was the company’s fourth with Starship and included software and hardware updates, and changes to the launch procedure, following lessons learned in previous tests. The first test in April last year exploded before the first and second stages could separate, while another in November saw the upper second stage reach space but self-destructed when it stopped transmitting data, and the first stage exploded right after. of the separation.

SpaceX’s third Starship test flight on March 14 was at least partially successful, reaching space, conducting fuel transfer tests, and traveling farther and faster than ever before. But the ship failed to make the scheduled soft landing after losing attitude control in mid-flight.

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