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Starship Successfully Launches and Makes Controlled Reentry

Starship launch. Credit: SpaceX

Ibadan, 7 June 2024. – SpaceX has successfully launched its Starship rocket on its fourth flight test, clearing all previous milestones with both the Super Heavy booster and the Starship second stage making a soft splashdown.

The booster’s flight ended with a landing burn and soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico seven minutes and 24 seconds into the flight. Meanwhile, Starship ignited its three-center Raptor engines to execute the first flip maneuver and landing burn for the first time, before soft splashing in the Indian Ocean one hour and six minutes after launch.

At launch, the Super Heavy booster lifted off successfully, completing a full-duration ascent burn. Subsequently, Starship executed another successful hot-stage separation, powering down all but three of Super Heavy’s Raptor engines and igniting the six-second stage Raptor engines before separating the vehicles. Following separation, the booster completed its flip maneuver and boostback burn to send it towards the splashdown zone and jettison the hot-stage adapter.

Similar to the third flight test, Starship’s six-second-stage Raptor engines powered the vehicle to space, placing it on the planned trajectory for the coast.  Starship subsequently made a controlled reentry, getting through peak heating and max aerodynamic pressure phases and demonstrating the ability to control the vehicle using its flaps while descending through the atmosphere. However, the descent saw the rocket suffer severe heat damage that ate away a steering fin, with chunks of flaming debris ripping away.

SpaceX said on its website, “The fourth flight of Starship made major strides to bring us closer to a rapidly reusable future. Its accomplishments will provide data to drive improvements as we continue rapidly developing Starship into a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

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