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SpaceX Starship lands on fifth attempt

Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully landed the Starship test vehicle intact on Wednesday’s fifth attempt, advancing efforts to prepare for future flights and lunar landings.

The unmanned spacecraft was launched from the company’s facility in southern Texas, and after a six-minute flight, climbed to a height of 10 km (6.2 miles) and landed on the pad. After landing, a small fire broke out at the base of the rocket, but it was extinguished a few minutes later.

The mission has continued its enthusiastic SpaceX launch period over the past few weeks, including the successful passage of astronauts, for government, military, and private customers. Round trip to the International Space Station..

Experimental Starship design underpins SpaceX’s recent $ 2.9 billion NASA contract victory Providing a lunar module For astronauts in the second half of the decade.With two losing bidders, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin LLC

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They have filed official protests about the awards they said were partly due to a lack of funding to hire multiple contractors.

Previous SpaceX initiatives since the first Starship flight last December Lost vehicleEmphasizes the complexity of the mission, including erecting the vehicle from the nose-down position before touchdown.

In NASA’s first night splashdown since 1968, a SpaceX capsule carrying four crew members (three from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) landed in the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday. Photo: Bill Ingalls / NASA / Shutterstock

The company’s official name, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said it is rapidly evolving its Starship design and needs to perform multiple test flights before it is ready for an orbital or lunar mission. The latest rockets featured new engine designs and upgraded avionics.

Starship has not yet been launched into orbit or carrying crew, and a larger engine currently under development to reach orbit and fuel in space for longer missions such as the Moon You will need.

SpaceX secured permission from the Federal Aviation Administration last week for three missions, including the latest:

The company needs to ensure approval of design changes, Adhere to FAA risk assessment, And place a government inspector at the launch site. The launch of Starship requires road closures and evacuation of residents around Bocachica Village, which hosts the SpaceX facility.

Mr. Musk has repeatedly said that SpaceX foresaw starships around Mars with or without people within a few years. Industry and government space authorities consider it overly optimistic. Many other prototypes have already been built or are in production, and Mr. Musk finally talked about sending as many as 100 people on a single Starship voyage.

SpaceX’s performance has pushed the company to the top tier of commercial and government launch providers, stimulating the industry’s keen interest in starship development. To reach the moon and penetrate deep into the solar system, Starship is designed to sit on another giant rocket that SpaceX is also developing.

The company is focused on government and commercial launches, but also plans to enter the early space travel market with crew dragon capsules carrying NASA astronauts.

Faced with competition from Blue Origin. Blue Origin said Wednesday that it is aiming for a launch by New Shepard’s first crew on July 20. The six-seater seat is being auctioned, but the planned price for the ballistic flight has not been disclosed. joke.

Write to Doug Cameron doug.cameron@wsj.com

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Appeared in the print version on May 6, 2021.

SpaceX Starship lands on fifth attempt

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