SpaceX lands prototype Starship spacecraft – without it blowing up

SpaceX successfully completes test flight which will send people to Mars

SpaceX has launched and successfully landed its futuristic Starship, finally nailing a test flight of the rocket ship that Elon Musk intends to use to send people to Mars.

The previous four test flights ended in fiery explosions before, during or soon after touchdown at the southeastern tip of Texas, near Brownsville.

This latest upgraded version of SpaceX’s full-scale, stainless steel, bullet-shaped rocket ship soared more than 6 miles over the Gulf of Mexico before flipping and descending horizontally, and then going vertical again just in time for touchdown.

Launch commentator John Insprucker said: ‘Starbase Flight Control has confirmed, as you can see on the live video, we are down. The Starship has landed!’

A fire at the base of the 50-metre rocket was quickly extinguished, and the rocket remained standing after the six-minute flight with Mr Musk tweeting: “Starship landing nominal!”

CORRECTION / In this photo screengrab made from SpaceX's live webcast shows the Starship SN15 launching from Boca Chica, Texas, on May 5, 2021. - SpaceX successfully landed its prototype Starship rocket on its fifth attempt, a livestream Wednesday showed. There was however a small fire at the base of the rocket, dubbed SN15, which announcers said was not unusual. (Photo by - / SPACEX / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
The bullet-shaped Starship SN15 launching from Boca Chica, Texas (AFP)

Success came on the 60th anniversary of the flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and it capped a stunning two weeks of achievements for SpaceX.

This has included the launch of four more astronauts to the space station for Nasa, the nation’s first night-time crew splashdown since the Apollo moonshots, and a pair of launches for its mini internet satellites.

Less than a month ago, Nasa chose SpaceX’s Starship to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface in the next few years.

In this image from video made available by SpaceX, a Starship test vehicle descends during a flight test in Boca Chica, Texas on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (SpaceX via AP)
This was the first time SpaceX has successfully landed a Starship test vehicle (AP)

The 3 billion dollar (£2.15 billion) contract was halted last week, however, after the losing companies – Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics – protested the selection.

Mr Musk said last month that the Nasa money will help development of Starship, which is meant to eventually launch atop a Super Heavy booster.

He said it has been a ‘pretty expensive’ project so far and mostly funded internally.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., arrives at the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Tesla Inc.??will be added to the S&P 500 Index in one shot on Dec. 21, a move that will ripple through the entire market as money managers adjust their portfolios to make room for shares of the $538 billion company. Photographer: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc (Credits: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

‘As you can tell, if you’ve been watching the videos, we’ve blown up a few of them. So excitement guaranteed, one way or another,’ Mr Musk told reporters after the private company’s second crew flight on April 23.

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