SpaceX achieved the first successful touchdown of its prototype Starship rocket during the latest test flight of the next-generation launch vehicle in south Texas yesterday, after four previous landing attempts ended in explosions.
The feat marked a key milestone for the private rocket company of Elon Musk in its development of a resusable heavy-lift launch vehicle to eventually carry astronauts and large cargo payloads to the moon and Mars. The Starship SN15 blasted off from the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, along the Gulf Coast.
Maneuvering itself back into vertical position under rocket thrust as it approached the ground, the 16-story, three-engine vehicle descended to a gentle touchdown on its landing gear.
The flight came on the 60th anniversary of the first spaceflight by an American astronaut Alan Shepard’s launch on a 15-minute suborbital mission atop NASA’s Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.