NSS Applauds Fourth Test Flight of SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy

Starship test 4 launch

SpaceX Advances Flight Envelope Significantly With 4th Test Flight of Reusable Launch System

The National Space Society applauds the successful fourth test flight of SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy launch system. The 394-foot-tall (120 meter) Starship/Super Heavy lifted off from Starbase in South Texas at 8:50 AM Eastern Time June 6, and achieved its orbital trajectory, with both stages concluding flight with soft splashdowns as planned. Other than one Super Heavy booster engine failing to ignite during liftoff—slightly reducing the 16.7 million pounds of thrust from the stage—the only apparent damage to the system was on the Starship upper stage, which suffered a partial burn-through on one of the landing flaps during the scorching reentry.

NSS CEO, Karlton Johnson, said, “The successful launch and reentry of SpaceX’s Starship is a lesson for others in resiliency and calculated risk management. SpaceX’s focus on finding ways to succeed proves what we can accomplish when we dare to try.”

Critically, the Starship stage succeeded in performing the flip and landing burn maneuver toward the end of its flight, and other than the damaged flap, was intact when it hit the water of the Indian Ocean. The Super Heavy first stage impacted in the Gulf of Mexico, again as planned. Both splashdowns were controlled until termination as intended, a giant step forward for SpaceX’s ambitions.

“SpaceX made history with its live high quality video broadcast of Starship as it plunged toward a dramatic touchdown maneuver,” said Dale Skran, NSS COO and Senior Vice President. “NSS members have never seen anything like this before, and we look forward to more excitement on the next test flight.”

This was the fourth test flight of the massive Starship system. Two of these occurred in 2023, the first in April concluding with an explosion four minutes into flight. The second test flight, performed in November, also concluding with an explosion, but achieved more milestones during the flight, including the critical staging maneuver.

Test flight three occurred in March 2024, achieving staging, and the Super Heavy stage coming to within 1600 feet (500 meters) of the Gulf of Mexico before breaking up. The upper Starship stage reached orbital velocity for almost an hour but did not survive reentry.

Today’s flight achieved a successful launch (with just one of the 33 engines failing to ignite), successful hot staging, expected splashdown of the Super Heavy booster in the Gulf of Mexico, planned reentry and flip maneuver of the Starship stage before initiating its landing burn, and splashdown of the Starship stage in the Indian Ocean as planned. Cameras onboard both stages captured video of the mission, with the Starship’s camera being compromised during reentry.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said of the flight: “Today was a great day for humanity’s future as a spacefaring civilization! Nothing unites us more than working together towards inspiring objectives.”

Notably, SpaceX also launched a record of 14 of successful flights of its workhorse reusable Falcon 9 rocket in May.

The next planned test for Starship/Super Heavy is slated for this summer, perhaps as early as late June, which may include an attempted “capture” of the Super Heavy stage by the “Mechazilla” launch tower as it returns to the Boca Chica, Texas site.


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National Space Society

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