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Everything we observed during SpaceX’s exciting fourth test of the spacecraft

Everything we observed during SpaceX’s exciting fourth test of the spacecraft

The 120-metric-ton Starship rocket not only took to the skies during its fourth test flight, but it also returned in both stages, with the booster landing in the Gulf of Mexico and the upper stage witnessing a chaotic return. This test brings the super-heavy lift vehicle closer to achieving reusability.

Integrated flight test of spacecraft 4 It was a standout book, if not only for the stunning sights of the rocket being bombarded with plasma on its way back through Earth’s atmosphere.

The Starship spacecraft launched on Thursday, June 5, on its fourth test flight.

The Starship spacecraft launched on Thursday, June 5, on its fourth test flight.
picture: SpaceX

SpaceX launched its Starship rocket from the company’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on Thursday at 8:50 a.m. ET. The rocket was loaded with more than 10 million pounds (4,500 metric tons) of propellant.

A Starship rocket at the Starbase launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas.

A Starship rocket at the Starbase launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas.
picture: C&G Pictures

The rocket’s ascent went smoothly, although one of its 33 Raptor engines failed to ignite shortly after launch. The previous two tests of the rocket saw all 33 engines running nominally throughout the flights. Engines were a concern after Starship’s first test flight on April 20, 2023 Several engines failed during launch The missile exploded just minutes after take-off. This time, the engine failure did not affect the Starship’s test flight, but it may have been a concern regarding engine reliability.

After liftoff, the spacecraft performed a successful hot stage separation, shutting down all but three Super Heavy Booster Raptor engines and igniting the second stage’s six Raptor engines before separation. The spacecraft then jettisoned the booster and hot phase converter. According to SpaceX, future versions of the upper stage will carry a built-in hot stage adapter, eliminating the need to dispose of hardware after stage separation.

After separating, the Super Heavy booster performed a rollover and burn landing maneuver that sent it toward the landing zone. That’s what it’s all about: the return of the beautiful spacecraft.

The spacecraft in the immediate moments after launch.

The spacecraft in the immediate moments after launch.
Screenshot: SpaceX

“The payload for these flight tests is data,” SpaceX said books On

the The last time the rocket rose into the sky That was on March 14th. During this flight, the spacecraft successfully performed a separation phase, completed a full burn of the second stage engines, demonstrated internal fuel transfer to NASA, and tested the Starlink distributor door. The mission lasted 1 hour and 49 minutes before the upper stage disintegrated into pieces during reentry.

The spacecraft separates from the booster.

The spacecraft separates from the booster.
picture: SpaceX

This time, the rocket survived a controlled reentry. The spacecraft successfully exceeded peak heating and maximum aerodynamic pressure, using its flaps to control the vehicle as it descended through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. Many of the vehicle’s 18,000 heat shield tiles were blown off during reentry, and one of the vehicle’s front panels in particular was seen fighting for its life in dramatic footage captured by cameras mounted on the rocket.

SpaceX placed thin heat shield tiles and removed two others before the rocket’s launch to measure heat in those areas without tiles and to test thermal protection options, according to the company. Reentry footage dramatically showed how hot things got for the rocket on its way down, as plasma covered the vehicle as it descended.

Torn front fender during landing.
Screenshot: SpaceX

Despite the heat, the spacecraft continued its controlled descent and performed a burn before landing in the Indian Ocean about 65 minutes after liftoff. “Despite missing several tiles and a damaged covering, the spacecraft was able to land smoothly in the ocean!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk books On X. Rocket Billionaire He added That the cover issue must be resolved for the next Starship flight. He stated, “The newest version of the Starship has the front flaps shifted toward the wind. This will help improve reliability, ease of manufacture and payload to orbit.”

Previous Starship flights have prompted investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration, but SpaceX may be safe this time. This could mean we’ll see another Starship prototype launch at some point soon, ready for another show.

Want to know more about Elon Musk’s space project? Check out our full coverage of SpaceX’s giant Starship rocket And the A huge constellation of Internet satellites from SpaceX Starlink. And for more space travel in your life, follow us X A custom bookmark for Gizmodo Spaceflight page.

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