News Brief

SpaceX's Starship, The Most Powerful Rocket Ever Built, Achieves First Splashdown In Test Flight — All About It

Kuldeep Negi

Jun 07, 2024, 10:09 AM | Updated 10:09 AM IST

SpaceX's Starship (Pic Via Twitter)
SpaceX's Starship (Pic Via Twitter)

Elon Musk's SpaceX achieved a major milestone on Thursday (6 June) with first-ever splashdown of its massive Starship rocket in Gulf of Mexico.

The prototype rocket system, that may one day take humans to Mars, blasted off from the company's Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, before soaring to space and coasting halfway across the globe, for a journey that lasted around an hour and six minutes.

The spacecraft descended over the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia, with fiery debris visible in dramatic video footage from an onboard camera.

Despite losing many tiles and sustaining a damaged flap, the rocket ultimately held together and survived atmospheric reentry.

"Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean!" SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on X.

"Today was a great day for humanity's future as a spacefaring civilization!" he added.

With a fully reusable design, Starship is key to Musk's vision of colonizing Mars and making humanity a multiplanetary species.

NASA has also contracted a modified version of Starship to transport astronauts to the Moon's surface under the Artemis programme in the coming years.

Three previous test flights ended in the destruction of the Starship, which the company considers an acceptable cost in its rapid trial-and-error development approach.

"The payload for these flight tests is data," SpaceX stated on X, a sentiment echoed by the commentary team throughout the flight.

The next challenge is to develop a "fully and immediately reusable orbital heat shield," Musk said, promising further tests to improve Starship's ability to withstand reentry at around 27,000 kilometers per hour (nearly 17,000 mph).

About seven-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the first stage booster, called Super Heavy, achieved an upright splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.

Starship stands 397 feet (121 meters) tall with both stages combined, making it 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Its Super Heavy booster produces 16.7 million pounds (74.3 Meganewtons) of thrust, about twice as powerful as the Saturn V rockets used during the Apollo missions, with future versions expected to be even more powerful.

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Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.

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