The 15th time’s the charm, they always say. In the case of SpaceX, the private space company founded by billionaire Elon Musk of Tesla fame, that’s how many prototypes it took to get a successful launch and landing back on the pad of its gigantic rocket ship. Lest we forget, the company is attempting something that for 70 years everybody thought was impossible, to have a rocket blast off and then return to earth (or somewhere else, perhaps) for a safe landing again. No need for a splashdown recovery and you get to use the spaceship again, which is very handy indeed if the place you first land at is another planet.
Liftoff of Starship SN15 was at 6:24 pm EDT from the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, launch site, and about six minutes later, touched down near the launch pad, after having successfully performed the remarkable flip maneuver it does to reorient itself for landing. The four previous prototypes of what SpaceX calls its high-altitude prototypes exploded shortly before or shortly after takeoff or landing.
Starship has been chosen by NASA for the United States’ return to the Moon, which might happen as soon as 2024.