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SpaceX Successfully Lands Starship SN15 Prototype

SpaceX stuck the landing Wednesday on a test of its Starship prototype.

The Starship prototype – SN15 – soared to 10 kilometers (about 33,000 feet) into the sky, then had a successful landing at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX has conducted seven tests in the past six months. All of those rockets launched successfully, but all were ultimately destroyed during the test, either exploding in-air, on-impact, or shortly after landing. SpaceX has noted that each test provided valuable data in the development of the rocket.

“Starship landing nominal!” Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted, indicating that the mission was a success.

Starship is the vehicle that SpaceX intends to transport humans to Mars. The stainless steel rocket is about 150 feet tall and powered by three of the company’s Raptor engines.

A new prototype, SN16, is currently being constructed in Boca Chica. It’s not clear if SpaceX intends to fly SN15 for another test.

Check out the livestream of launch below.

bxr140

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Falcon destroys space competition slowly but Starship is a complete game changer.

While I'd contest its important to accept that Starship is in its development cycle and isn't actually that close (where close = years) to a game changer...yet...I think digging into your point, the most important thing about Starship is that there's a number of fairly parallelized elements of the development cycle, which is a strategy that's never been employed anywhere near this scale in the space industry.

On F9 (to say nothing of non-SpaceX rockets) the primary focus was on physically manufacturing the rocket and reliably launching the rocket. While performance and reusability dev were of course going on at the same time, they were very much deprioritized in favor of getting a commercially salable product. Once they established F9's internal viability/cost (through the mfg dev) and established themselves as a viable commercial company for customers did SpaceX really transition the serialized dev focus on improving performance (FT-->B5) and reusability (the first real landing attempt was years into flight, for instance).

Starship is flipping that on its head. The iterative manufacturing dev units are being purposely mutli-dutied as reusability (and effectively, reliability and to a lesser degree performance) dev units and explicitly not as revenue generating units. While this may have the effect of slowing down any one particular dev swim lane (and delaying revenue dollar #1), each unit iteration is much more efficiently moving the full technology stack toward proper flight.

I appreciate that folks in non-space industries might read the above logic as an obvious, self evident approach, but its a whole new world for the space industry.
 
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Grendal

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