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Starship Prototype Lands, Doesn't Explode

It was fifth time's the charm for SpaceX
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2021 3:38 AM CDT

(Newser) – SpaceX's policy of testing prototypes until they fail appears to have paid off: A Starship prototype took off from SpaceX's Texas test site Thursday, and unlike its four predecessors, it aced the landing as well as the flight, Space.com reports. Other recent unmanned test flights exploded on landing, but the SN15 prototype in Wednesday's flight touched down safely after flying as high as 33,000 feet and flipping for the descent. CNBC reports that a small fire appeared to break out at the base of the prototype after it landed but it was contained within minutes.

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk used a space engineering term to celebrate the successful landing, the New York Times reports. "Starship landing nominal," he tweeted. The company said the changes in the prototype include "updated propellant architecture in the aft skirt, and a new Raptor engine design and configuration." Space.com notes that the successful test of the spacecraft, which SpaceX hopes to use to bring astronauts to the moon and Mars, happened on a fitting date: It was the 60th anniversary of NASA's first-ever crewed spaceflight, in which astronaut Alan Shephard became the first American in space. (Musk mocked rival Jeff Bezos last week after SpaceX won a NASA moon contract.)

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