June 16, 2024

Starship, the mighty space rocket designed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, recorded its first fully successful test flight on Thursday, splashing down in the Indian Ocean minus any of the fiery explosions that ended previous attempts.

The demonstration mission from the Boca Chica Launch Complex in Texas sent Starship to an altitude of nearly 130 miles (210 km), at a speed above 16,000 mph (25,700 km/h), showcasing the capability of the world’s most powerful rocket what Nasa continue to one day send humans to Mars.

SpaceX celebrated its intact return as the real achievement of the flight. This followed a loud collision and fiery destruction of the unmanned craft last November, seven months after its first test launch ended in similar fashion, and its break up on re-entry after a trip around the planet in March.

“Despite the loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it to a soft landing in the ocean!” Musk, SpaceX’s CEO, wrote in a post to Xthe social media platform that the billionaire also owns.

Musk called Thursday’s hour-long, fourth test flight “an epic achievement.” The company has often expressed its “failure” to be a crucial part of its development process towards a safe and reliable crew transport system.

The Starship flight came on the same day that Nasa gave details from a helium leak aboard Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which launched on its first crewed mission to the International Space Station on Wednesday.

The space agency has contracted with both SpaceX and Boeing as commercial partners to take astronauts into both low Earth orbit and deep space. In 2021, Nasa chose Starship as her preferred lander for the Artemis programwhich aims to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972, and eventually return to Mars before the end of the next decade.

In January, Nasa announced that Artemis III, which will land four astronauts including the first woman on the lunar surface, was delayed until at least September 2026. The under-development SpaceX lander will rendezvous with the astronauts in orbit before descending to the moon.

Since partnering with Nasa, SpaceX has become an integral part of the emerging, next-generation commercial space industry.

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It launched more than 50 people into space aboard its own Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules, and pioneered the Starlink chain of Internet delivery satellites that transformed communications in remote areas of the world.

But Starlink also has controversy for allegedly helped Russia in his military invasion of Ukraine.

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