June 22, 2024

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SpaceX spacecraft completes first full test flight after surviving re-entry | Space news

SpaceX spacecraft completes first full test flight after surviving re-entry |  Space news

The flight represents a major milestone for a rocket system that may one day send humans to Mars.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket has completed its first-ever full flight, surviving a reentry in a hack of a prototype system that could one day send humans to Mars.

Three previous missions ended with the rocket, which is about 121 meters (400 feet) high, exploding or disintegrating, but this time the Starship survived the re-entry and fell under control into the Indian Ocean just 65 minutes after its launch from the United States. Texas State.

“Despite missing several tiles and a damaged covering, the spacecraft was able to land smoothly in the ocean!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on X, the social media platform he owns.

“Today was a great day for humanity’s future as a spacefaring civilization!” he added.

The Starship spacecraft lifted off from the company’s Starbase base in Boca Chica, Texas, at 7.50am (12.50 GMT), before flying into space and traveling halfway around the world.

It reached an altitude of about 211 kilometers (130 mi), and traveled at more than 26,000 kilometers per hour (16,000 mph) before beginning its descent. The live broadcast showed parts of the spacecraft breaking during the intense heat of re-entry, and a piece of flying debris also cracked the camera lens.

The spacecraft remained intact enough to transmit data to the target landing site in the Indian Ocean.

The mission’s success represents a critical milestone in the company’s plan to develop a reusable rocket that NASA and Musk are counting on to deliver humanity to the moon and then Mars.

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NASA has contracted a modified version of Starship for use as the final vehicle to transport astronauts to the lunar surface under the Artemis program and needs the company to prove it will be able to do so safely.

“Congratulations to SpaceX on a successful Starship test flight this morning!” “We’re one step closer to returning humanity to the Moon with #Artemis — and then looking to Mars,” NASA chief Bill Nelson wrote on X.

SpaceX is committed to the strategy of conducting tests in the real world rather than in laboratories.

Musk said the next challenge is to develop a “fully reusable, instantaneous orbital heat shield,” and promised to conduct more tests as he attempts to build a reusable satellite launch pad and lunar lander.

Much depends on SpaceX’s development of the Starship vehicle, as NASA aims to use it to return astronauts to the moon in 2026 in competition with China, which plans to send astronauts there by 2030. China has made several recent advances in its lunar program. , including the second landing on the far side of the Moon on a sample retrieval mission.

Starship’s first launch in April 2023 exploded minutes after liftoff 40 kilometers (25 miles) above Earth’s surface, while its second attempt in November exploded after reaching space. The missile’s third test flight in March made it much farther, but it broke up during its re-entry into the atmosphere about 64 kilometers (40 miles) above the Indian Ocean.