SpaceX SN15 Starship Sticks Its Landing

At long last, it’s a clear win for SpaceX and its “Starship,” the rocket SpaceX wants to use to take mankind back to the moon — and then to Mars.

A series of test launches ending in fiery impacts, then an apparently successful landing that exploded seconds after it appeared to have succeeded (SN10), then a flight that might have been successful but was conducted in such thick fog that SpaceX had to destroy the vehicle in flight (SN11), concluded yesterday when Starship SN15 took off from SpaceX’s Spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas, flew to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) altitude, descended, and conducted a picture-perfect landing on its tail.

Starship SN1. The Starship that started it all. Image source: SpaceX.

Round trip: 6 minutes, 8 seconds.

Once again, to clear up any confusion, SpaceX has pre-named its test flights, so that the number following the alphabetic code (SN1, SN11, SN15, etc.) doesn’t necessarily refer to the number of test flights the company has conducted as of any given date. In this latest test, SN15 directly followed the aborted SN11 — skipping past SN12, 13, and 14.

Next up (unless plans change), SpaceX intends to fly test flights SN16 and SN17, testing the Starship’s upgraded design and its ability to withstand the heat of an atmospheric reentry. According to our friends at Next Spaceflight, the company will also attempt at least one test flight of its Super Heavy rocket booster (which will serve as the first stage of an orbital-class Starship) in June, followed by an orbital launch attempt of a Starship atop a Super Heavy booster — perhaps as early as July — which flight SpaceX calls “SN20.”

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