SpaceX’s Starship Flight 4 Success: First Soft Landing and More

Starship flight 4

On early Thursday morning, June 6, 2024, SpaceX achieved a significant milestone by successfully launching its Starship rocket on its fourth test flight to orbit and back. This mission marked the first time several key milestones were reached, providing valuable information for SpaceX to continue to improve the system.

The nearly 400-foot-tall rocket, known as Starship, is the most powerful booster ever developed. SpaceX aims to make the system fully reusable, a crucial goal for its long-term missions. Starship is expected to play a pivotal role in NASA’s Artemis III mission, slated to carry astronauts to the lunar surface in 2026.

The launch occurred at 8:50 a.m. local time. During the test flight, SpaceX successfully demonstrated that both the Starship spacecraft and the rocket’s first-stage, known as Super Heavy, can endure re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere and achieve a controlled splashdown.

Less than ten minutes after launch, Super Heavy executed a successful landing burn for the first time, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to Starlink, viewers saw it all happen live and in high definition, which is just crazy when you think about it.

SpaceX provided live camera views aboard Starship, showing debris and damage to the vehicle before it splashed down in the Indian Ocean. That one flap went through hell on re-entry. Despite this, SpaceX celebrated the test flight as a success. Starship achieved several milestones, including the separation of the first-stage booster from the upper-stage spacecraft.

After separation, the booster made a successful soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, underscoring SpaceX’s progress toward reusability. The Starship spacecraft then attempted re-entry and aimed for a controlled splashdown in the Indian Ocean. While there was visible damage to the spacecraft, it successfully transmitted footage until the end, showcasing the resilience of its design.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, commented on the achievement, saying, “Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean! Congratulations @SpaceXteam on an epic achievement!!”

SpaceX President Gwynn Shotwell also praised the team, stating, “Congratulations and a huge thank you to our extraordinary @SpaceXteam! Successful Super Heavy launch and landing, ‘orbital’ ship (that’s one tough cookie!) entry, engine relight, and splashdown. I hope you enjoyed the views, the music, and see you back soon for our next flight!”

This test flight represents a significant advancement in SpaceX’s Starship program, which aims to create a fully reusable spacecraft capable of carrying crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The insights gained from this test will be instrumental in refining the design and operational procedures for future Starship missions.

Check out a replay of today’s Starship launch below: