The completion of the high-altitude flight test of Starship SN15 marks a major milestone in Elon Musk’s ambitions to send humans to Mars.
The high-altitude flight took place on Wednesday at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas, where development of new Starship prototypes is already underway.
The next-generation spacecraft lifted off at around 5.30pm local time (11.30pm BST) and reached a height of 10km before touching back down roughly six minutes later.
SpaceX confirmed that the test had been a success, with CEO Elon Musk describing the landing as “nominal”.
SpaceX shared a live stream of the Starship SN15 test, though poor weather conditions meant much of it was hidden by cloud.
Four previous high-altitude tests of Starship prototypes – SN8, SN9, SN10 and SN11 – had all ended in explosions.
The successful test comes less than a month after SpaceX secured a $3 billion contract with Nasa to further develop Starship in order to return humans to the Moon by 2024.
SpaceX hopes to perform an orbital test of Starship before July, with preparations already in place for flights of Starship SN16 and beyond.
It is not clear what will happen to Starship SN15, though it could be used to test the craft’s reusability. Elon Musk previously said that he plans to build up to 100 Starships every year, with each one capable of flying multiple times per day carrying people and cargo around the Solar System.
Hi ambitious timeline involves a potential Mars landing as early as 2024 or 2026, in the hopes of eventually creating a self-sustaining colony on the Red Planet by 2050.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies