SpaceX ‘Starship has proven itself, the test flight of the prototype SN15 was successful. It took off from Texas on Tuesday evening (local time), reached an altitude of about ten kilometers, and then landed vertically. In contrast to previous attempts, everything went well this time. “Starship landing nominal!” Tweeted SpaceX boss Elon Musk.
Although flames shot from the base of the Starship after landing, this did not prove to be a problem. Excess fuel was probably burned off with the fire.
In December, SpaceX’s Starship SN8 shattered on landing. In February, SpaceX’s Starship crashed again on landing, it was SN9. But the Starship SN10 landed at the beginning of March before it exploded spectacularly. The next explosion followed at the end of March at SN11 – as with the success on Tuesday, it was quite foggy at the starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.
As a result, the company decided to make extensive improvements to the design: improved rows of instruments, new design of the fuel supply, modified Raptor engines, and a new arrangement of these engines. This caused SpaceX not to use the prototype numbers 12 to 14 and to start immediately with SN15.
The aim of the development is a spaceship that can be reused very quickly and can fly up to three times a day or 1000 times a year. One of these spaceships should be able to bring 150 tons of cargo into space and 50 tons of cargo to earth.
Musk believes his Starships are the “fastest route to a self-sustaining city on Mars”. The billionaire even thinks it is possible to travel to more distant planets. Musk had announced the first flights with people on board for 2020, which turned out to be too optimistic.
60 years after Alan Shepard
This successful return landing is a milestone for SpaceX and thus for American space travel. And progress is rapid: on Tuesday it was only 60 years ago that an American was in space for the first time.
On May 5, 1961, NASA, which was not even three years old at the time, had its first major success. As part of Project Mercury, astronaut Alan Shepard, Jr., took a Redstone rocket into space, if not yet into orbit.
Shepard was the second human in space. The month before, Yuri Gagarin was the first person to have been in space. At that time Gagarin even managed to circumnavigate the world completely. The Americans only managed that in February 1962 with an Atlas-D missile from the Luftwaffe.
The article Missing Link: Stony Road to Civil Space Travel examines how NASA was founded in the first place.