SpaceX is one step closer to replacing its Falcon line of active duty spacecraft: It’s Starship prototype ‘SN8’ achieved a major milestone in the ongoing spacecraft’s development program, flying to a height of around 40,000 feet at SpaceX’s development facility in southern Texas.
One of the Starship’s three Raptor engines cut off around 2 minutes into flight, but the prototype rocket continued its ascent. Then at around three minutes, another extinguished, leaving just one lit and firing. The rocket continued to climb, oriented upward, but it was hard to tell from the feed exactly how high it reached. The third flared out at around 4:30, and the Starship oriented into a horizontal position, angling back towards Earth but effectively flat on its belly, gliding.
The Starship’s engines re-ignited as the rocket approached the ground, flipping the rocket into a vertical orientation once again and slowing its descent. It landed a bit harder than expected, however, resulting in an explosion that engulfed the rocket. That’s still a successful test, and went better than SpaceX or most observers likely expected it would.