May 5, 2021 - Science

SpaceX launches and lands a starship prototype

Starship SN15 after landing.
Starship SN15 after landing. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX launched its fifth test of a Starship prototype on Wednesday and managed to stick the landing.

Why it matters: SpaceX hopes that Starship will eventually be used to deliver payloads and people to deep space destinations like the Moon and Mars.

What's happening: The Starship prototype, named SN15, was an upgraded version of earlier Starships launched by the Elon Musk-founded company.

  • Those earlier launches ended in failures of some kind or another, including exploding during descent, exploding on impact with the ground and exploding after a hard landing.
  • But Wednesday's test was a success, with Musk tweeting, "Starship landing nominal!"

The intrigue: SpaceX just received a contract from NASA to continue to fly astronauts to the surface of the Moon using Starship.

  • That contract is expected to be a boon for its development program and could bring the rocket and spacecraft under more scrutiny from the space agency.
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