SN15 is the first Starship that completed a successful flight (lift off at 17:24), landed on its legs at the edge of the pad (17:30), and was able to be saved. Since then, the prototype has been placed onto Pad B for a possible second flight, but later it was moved to the build site/propellant production site and a further flight seems unlikely.
Starship SN15 is the first prototype of the second batch of fully stacked starship prototypes, as Musk anounced in a tweet (Nov 24, 2020) that major upgrades have been slated for SN15 . The first batch included SN8-11 (12-14 being scraped). If SN3-6 also taken into account, SN15 would be the first starship of the "Block 3" prototypes (12.02.2021, Felix Schlang, WAI).
- 1 History and Overview
- 2 Timeline
- 3 Gallery
- 4 FAA
- 5 08 April 2021 - Roll out
- 6 09 April 2021 - Ambient pressure test
- 7 12 April 2021 - Cryogenic test #1
- 8 13 April 2021 - Cryogenic test #2
- 9 26 April 2021 - Static fire #1
- 10 27 April 2021 - Static fire #2
- 11 30 April 2021 - Scrubbed flight attempt
- 12 04 May 2021 - Scrubbed flight attempt
- 13 05 May 2021 - Successful flight and landing
- 14 References
History and Overview
WAI suggested that this new block will not be intended for orbital flights (later confirmed by Musk) as the aft skirt has not been changed significantly and that they would be more likely to be intended for reducing complexity and increasing reliability. Changes include:
- New thrust puck design: reduced complexity and weight as the three O2 inlets are combined to one central inlet for all three raptors (4 instead of 6 inlets)
- Even more thermal protection system tiles in order to test them
- It was speculated that SN15 might have 3mm stainless steel, something that turned out to be incorrect
Other differences have been spotted by Anthony:
- SN15 have a better cable management than any previous prototype.
- The depress valves seem different.
- There is a new round white Starlink dish at the top of the tank section, apparently for communication.
Furthermore, a new generation of Raptor engines should have been installed, providing better performance and increased reliability. No engine had to be exchanged prior to the flight.
NSF author Chris Bergin cites insider information, that SN15-17, in line with BN1 and BN2, represent "iterative improvements to the vehicles to improve design and serve as production pathfinders" to aid the increasing production cadence. He also concludes that "it is also possible that SpaceX will skip further production of the SN18 and SN19 Starships based on those vehicles not being referenced. This would match how SN12, 13, and 14 were also scrapped as SpaceX opted to advance from SN11 to SN15."
Elon Musk stated after the flight of SN11:
"SN15 rolls to launch pad in a few days. It has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine. Hopefully, one of those improvements covers this problem. If not, then retrofit will add a few more days." Roll out occured on April 08, which was faster than many expected as SN15 was still not finally stacked at the time of SN11's flight, unlike with previous test flights, where the next prototype was already ready.
After a fast start into the testing procedure, SN15 static fires were several times delayed as raptor engine installation took some time and further tests were done. Weather and other unknown reasons delayed the flight further.
- 02 Feb 2021: Top dome section stacked in mid bay
- 05 Feb 2021: New nosecone spotted with fin mounting jig installed (top missing) [looks like SN15]
- 10 Feb 2021: New nosecone barrel section ready for stacking [SN15?]
- 15 Feb 2021: Aft fin delivered, probably for SN15
- 17 Feb 2021: Nosecone section attached to crane, moved out of tent and later detached [unclear if really SN15]
- 20 Feb 2021: Nosecone has fin jigs attached, top cone part removed
- 21 Feb 2021: Nosecone barrel section attached on crane
- 25 Feb 2021: Nosecone being stacked, nose section still without its head
- 28 Feb 2021: Nosecone stacking continued, attached to crane
- 03 March 2021: New nosecone section spotted, some suggested for SN15
- 03 March 2021: Aft skirt moved into mid bay
- 04 March 2021: Nosecone work continued [unclear attribution due to missing head]
- 05 March 2021: Nosecone moved, some suggested it couldn't be slated for SN15 anymore
- 05 March 2021: tank section stacked on the skirt section
- 14 March 2021: [SN15 - no] nosecone has flap actuators, but no flaps yet
- 25 March 2021: New nosecone infront of tent 3 now two flaps installed, assumed now for SN15, barrel section right aside
- 28 March 2021: Nosecone prepared for stacking on barrel section
- 31 March 2021: Moved into high bay, many heat shield tiles installed
- 31 March 2021: Aft flaps installed
- 31 March 2021: Tank sections moved out of mid bay
- 31 March 2021: Nosecone has been stacked on its barrel section
- 01 Apr 2021: Work platform installed on top of tank section
- 01 Apr 2021: Nosecone weldint and work continued
- 02 Apr 2021: Nosecone sections stacked on tank sections (using external crane)
- 02 Apr 2021: Nosecone work platform removed
- 02 Apr 2021: Aft flaps folded prior to stacking
- 02 Apr 2021: Nosecone sections moved into high bay, while employees still worked on welding platform
- 03 Apr 2021: Welding continued, work near aft flaps, aft flaps moved
- 08 Apr 2021: Roll out
- 09 Apr 2021: Ambient pressure test
- 12 Apr 2021: Cryo proof test #1
- 13 Apr 2021: More TPS heat shield tiles added
- 13 Apr 2021: Cryo proof test #2
- 14 Apr 2021: Work continued
- 14 Apr 2021: Pad A puck shucker (thrus simulation ram) removed
- 15 Apr 2021: Three Raptors delivered to launch site: RSN54, RSN61, RSN66
- 16 Apr 2021: More TPS tiles added
- 16 Apr 2021: Second raptor lifted at 11:00 pm, lift came down at 12:06 am next day
- 16 Apr 2021: RSN61 moved under skirt early morning, lifted at dinner time
- 17 Apr 2021: Work under skirt (Raptor installation)
- 18 Apr 2021: Third raptor RSN54 delivered again (after moved away)
- 18 Apr 2021: More TPS tiles added
- 18 Apr 2021: FAA launch authorization still pending
- 19 Apr 2021: RSN54 installed at around 5:53 am local
- 21 Apr 2021: "The FAA has not signed off on the SpaceX Starship SN15 flight yet, but I'm told they are close, working through documentation for some of the new components."
- 22 Apr 2021: Big TPS panel completed at 2am
- 23 Apr 2021: Cryo/ambient test with tank farm activity and venting (skirt, methane, LOX, front tri vent?)
- 25 Apr 2021: Work on aft section (under skirt)
- 26 Apr 2021: Static fire #1
- 27 Apr 2021: Some TPS tiles damaged during static fire #1
- 27 Apr 2021: Static fire #2
- 28 Apr 2021: Flaps unchained and unfolded
- 29 Apr 2021: FTS installed at 22:26-00:44
- 29 Apr 2021: Broken TPS tiles removed
- 29 Apr 2021: FCC approved starlink atenna from April 28 to June 28
- 29 Apr 2021: Work under skirt
- 30 Apr 2021: Scrubbed flight attempt
- 02 May 2021: Ambient pressure test
- 02 May 2021: Work on aft section
- 03 May 2021: Preparation work continued
- 03 May 2021: Ambient pressure test
- 04 May 2021: Pressure vents (double depress)
- 04 May 2021: Scrubbed flight attempt
- 04 May 2021: Flap testing at 6:22 am, as well as later in the morning; FTS armed
- 05 May 2021: Successful flight and landing
- 06 May 2021: Saving continued; lift went up 06:06-07:02, working on right fwd flap and later put on mega SPMT; aft flaps extended
- 07 May 2021: Landing legs removed, some of them looking burnt a bit
- 07 May 2021: Moved to center of landing pad
- 07 May 2021: Saving continued: legs appeared to be crampled, at least one TPS tile missing, some have been damaged during flight
- 11 May 2021: Moved to SoLS pad B, attached to Bluto/Tankzilla
- 12 May 2021: Work on the base, around the skirt area
- 12 May 2021: Waiting to lifted onto Pad B
- 14 May 2021: Unhooked from Bluto/Tankzilla on pad B (previously on pad A)
- 14 May 2021: Lifted from SPMT by Tankzilla/Bluto; SPMT moved away, flaps retracted, lifted onto pad B; SPMT left launch site
- 14 May 2021: Lifted onto Pad B; 8:58am; flaps closed at 09:02am
- 16 May 2021: SN15 being inspected thorugh access hatch; starlink dish inspected
- 20 May 2021: Inspection/work
- 21 May 2021: RSN54 removed, as well as a second raptor engine and third engine later, brought back to build site
- 22 May 2021: Work continued
- 23 May 2021: Flaps tested (4:53pm-5:15pm)
- 24 May 2021: LR11000 rolled toward Pad B, SN15
- 24 May 2021: 9m transport stand moved to launch site together with counterweights, possibly for transporting SN15 back
- 25 May 2021: Attached to LR11000
- 26 May 2021: SN15 put on transport stand, moved up Hwy 4, turned into Remedios Avenue, parked near nosecone test rig at PPS
- 30 May 2021: 3 Raptor engines spotted in a van, likely the SN15 engines for sending them back to McGregor
- 31 May 2021: Bolted onto a display stand (date unclear)
According to Christian Davenport, on April 29, the FAA authorized the next three Starship launches, SN15-17. “Prior to the launch of SN15, the FAA will verify that SpaceX implemented corrective actions arising from the SN11 mishap investigation. For the launch of SN16 and SN17, SpaceX may be subject to additional corrective actions if any new mishap investigations were to occur. The FAA safety inspector is expected to arrive on site on April 29 to support a possible launch this week.”
According to Michael Sheetz, the FAA "approved multiple launches because SpaceX is making few changes to the launch vehicle and relied on the FAA's approved methodology to calculate the risk to the public".
08 April 2021 - Roll out
- 08:30 Moved to the middle of high bay
- 09:09 GSE1 unhooked from crane
- 09:43 Left high bay
- 10:00-13:00 Moved to pad A
- 15:30 Bluto/Tankzilla hoisted SN15 off the SPMTs
- 15:46 SPMT left
- 16:00 Lowered onto pad A
- 05:48 [April 09] Detached from crane
09 April 2021 - Ambient pressure test
Timeline according to LabPadre:
- 06:08 Sheriff at road block
- 07:xx Road closed
- 10:40 Ambient pressure test, venting
- 11:13 Road opened
12 April 2021 - Cryogenic test #1
Cryogenic tests use liquid nitrogen, while ambient test use gaseous nitrogen.
Timeline according to LabPadre and NSF:
- 11:11 Road closed
- 12:46 Pad cleared
- 15:30 Farm venting
- 15:43 Skirt vent
- 15:51 Skirt vent spooling up
- 15:59 Frost/Ice ring on LOX tank
- 16:55+ much more frost morimingon LOX tank
- 17:03 Short methane vent
- 17:16 Frost on CH4 tank appearing, while LOX tank fully frosty
- 17:28:51 Huge vent from GSE (from the pad)
- 17:29 Short methane vents
- 17:30:40 Huge LOX depress vents, as well as CH4
- Vents continued to go on and off for some time
- 17:40 Frost has increased
- 17:45? Detanking, frost beginning to disappear
- 18:10:58 Huge depress vents
- 18:11 GSE vent from pad has now stopped
- 18:35 Frost on LOX tank disappeared
- 18:37 Final depress vents
- 18:45 Road opened
- 18:54 CH4 frost nearly disappeared
13 April 2021 - Cryogenic test #2
Please be aware that nighttime tests are more difficult to follow. Therefore, any timeline can only be a very rough approximation and is certainly incomlete.
Timeline according to LabPadre:
- 16:18 Road closed
- 18:05 Pad cleareed
- 18:30 Ground vent
- 19:50 SN15 Vent
- 19:52 LOX frost
- 20:10 CH4 frost
- 20:18 Depress vent
- 20:45 Road opened
According to NSF, the header tanks have been tested during this test.
26 April 2021 - Static fire #1
Timeline according to LabPadre and NSF:
- 12:16 Road closed
- 14:36 Pad cleared
- 15:00 Ground vent
- 15:07 Car to pad
- 15:25 Car left pad, pad clear
- 16:17 Recondenser
- 16:22 Farm venting
- 16:35 Methane venting
- 16:37 Skirt venting, propellant load
- 16:43:50 Tri vent
- 16:48 LOX header tank vent: Relocated to the side, compared to the earlier prototypes
- 16:53 LOX header tank frost
- 16:57:10 Static fire, three engines with about 0.1 seconds between ignitions
- 16:58 Depress vent
- 17:27 Big double depress vent
- 17:41 RCS thruster tests
- 18:02 More double depress vents
- 18:15, 18:20, 18:37, 18:43 Final depress vents
- 18:47 Road opened
Note: there appears to be a change in the tri vent sequence. The tri vent didn't stop approximately 17 seconds before ignition, and no spurt was observed. The only indication was tri vent stopping approximately one second before ignition.
27 April 2021 - Static fire #2
As confirmed by Elon Musk, this static fire was to test header tanks, which is why other vents have been observed. Musk was positive about this test.
Timeline according to LabPadre (Nerdle cam time) and NSF:
- 13:10 Road closed (without barricade)
- Crane transport from launch site to build site
- 13:50 Road opened
- 14:23 Second crane left, road closed
- 17:41 Pad clear (a white tesla with a broken tire was left halfway up the road)
- 17:58 Recondenser
- 18:02 Ground vent
- 18:12 Skirt vent - fuelling
- 18:15 Methane vent
- 18:22:20 Small front (single) tri vent; some suggested for CH4 header tank, some suggested a hold
- 18:29:30 Venting from the bottom of the right aft flap
- 18:36:48 Right (tri) vent
- 18:36 LOX main tank frost
- 18:40:01 Second, left side (tri) vent starting, but less intense than on the right side
- 18:41 LOX header tank, continuous vent started
- 18:43:05 Hissing
- 18:46 LOX header tank frost
- 18:47:44 LOX header tank vent stopped
- 18:47:58 LOX header tank vent started again
- 18:48:04 Vents from both forward flaps; continous puffs from the LOX header vent
- 18:48:36 Tri vent (right side) stop and start again
- 18:49:01 Static fire; unclear how many engines (possibly one or two)
- 18:49:07 Fwd flap vents stopped
- 18:49:38 Double depress vents start
- 19:52 Depress vent
- 20:24 Road opened
30 April 2021 - Scrubbed flight attempt
Timelie according to LabPadre and NSF:
- 07:34 Sheriff at the road closure (soft closure)
- No more evacuation at 10am
- 11:46 Todays road closure cancelled
04 May 2021 - Scrubbed flight attempt
- FTS armed
- 06:22 Flap testing
- 09:30 Flap testing
- 09:40 Beach clearing began
- 10:39 Scrub (No village evacuaction according to Mary)
- 11:03 RC cancelled
05 May 2021 - Successful flight and landing
Timeline according to different sources (eg. LabPadre streams and NSF; seconds are according to Nerdle cam, NSF stream add 5 seconds):
- 21:19 Evacuation planned at 10am
- 09:16 SpaceX deployed own drone cameras in certain areas
- 09:39 Sheriffs beginning to clear the beach
- 10:53 Venting
- 10:56:30 More venting
- 11:03 Lifts raising up, and workers at the base of SN15
- 11:43 Lift coming down without having unchained left fwd flap
- 11:56 Lift going up again
- 12:17 Left flap unchained, lift coming down
- 12:20 Many cars left launch site
- 12:23 Mary "time to head to my viewing location" - village evacuation
- 12:26? Road closed
- 12:29 Flaps extended and tested
- 12:40 Lift went up again
- 13:14 Raptor van left
- 13:19 Right FTS work; flaps fully extended again
- 13:28 Left FTS work
- 13:33 Lift going down
- 13:57 Some cars left; including sheriff
- 14:01 Sheriff arrived again
- 14:07 Ground vent!!, stopped 14:09
- 14:10 or earlyer: antenna lowered
- 14:14 Flap tests
- 14:29 More cars left - pad clear
- 14:32:10 RCS testing
- 14:34 Sheriffs left road block, one car remaining at block, other cars clearup patrols
- 15:12 Fwd flaps closed
- 15:14 Two cars, raptor van and quad to pad - pad not cleared anymore
- 15:25 Flap testing contineud
- 15:40 Antenna moved southwards
- 15:49 Cars and raptor van and squd left pad - pad clear
- 15:54 Ground vent (short)
- 15:57 or before [Sentinel isssue]: Antenna returned to launch position
- 16:01 Flaps opened again
- 16:08:01 Recondenser
- 16:16 Antenna moved again, seems like tracking something (second antenna still up); returned to postition at 16:18
- 16:18:50 Methane vent
- 16:19 Antenna tracking again (several times), some cars left the block
- 16:20 Recondenser not very continuous
- 16:29 Antenna back to launch position
- 16:32:43 Recondenser back again
- 16:37:19 Tank farm venting (NSF time)
- 16:38 Ground vent
- 16:44:12 Methane vent
- 16:44:40 Cars left road block
- 16:47 More Methane vents
- 16:49:18 Skirt vents
- 16:56:04 Methane vent (the big one)
- 17:00:28 Skirt vent spooled up a lot
- 17:11:07 Forst appearing
- 17:12:05 Tri vent, engine chill (indicating 5:25:32 for t0)
- 17:17:45 Nosecone vent starting
- 17:23:47 Short pause in tri vent??
- 17:24:02 Ignition
- 17:24:05 Lift off
- 17:29:54 Legs deployed
- 17:29:59 Lower depress vent (LOX) [?]
- 17:30:00 Landing
- 17:30:29 Fire under skirt detected, venting from LOX continued, as well as from tri vent area
- 17:31:05 Deluge system spooling up41
- 17:31:19 Upper (CH4) depress vent, until 17:31:31; also 17:31:57-17:32:07, 17:32:39-17:32:51, 17:34:33-41, 17:35:05-...
- 17:39 Tri vent [?] area spooling up; flaps staying folded; TPS tiles seem to have survived the flight
- 17:45 Frost slowly disappearing; LOX and CH4 vents with decreasing pressure
- 17:50 Venting slowly decreasing
- 17:54 Less venting from lower parts, dogs spotted
- 17:57 Again more venting from lower parts
- 17:58 LOX header frost (windward side) nearly completly disappeared
- 18:04 Windward frost completely disappeared, only some frost on the backside of the nosecone remaining
- 18:07 Bottom vents slowly decreasing
- 18:13-18:15 LOX header tank vent stopping
- 18:21 Drone inspection
- 18:28 Nosecone frost disappeared
- 18:35 or earlier: Cars at tent build site
- 18:37 Sheriff arrived at road block
- 18:42 Cars heading to crane yard
- 18:58 Lower venting slowly decreasing
- 19:09 Not much venting remaining
- 19:36 Venting increased again for a minute or so
- 20:08 Again a bit mre venting
- 20:20 (approx.) No more venting seen [?]
- 20:24 Cars to pad (not yet entered site)
- 20:30 First inspection vehicles near entrance to launch site
- 20:44 Vehicles left the entrance
- 20:45 Double SPMT "MegaLift" heading towards launch site
- 06:06-07:02 Lift went up, work on right fwd flap and other parts
- 09:10 Bluto/Tankzilla move to Launch Pad began
Official SpaceX Stream
- -06:28 Stream started, tri vent going on
- -04:30 "The demonstration objective is, with the last four flights, slowly climb to 10km altitude, which will take about 4 min, turning off engines on the way up as we burn off propellant mass. Once we reach 10km altitude, we will begin the horizontal descend back to the landing zone adjacent to the launch pad. If all goes well, we light three engines to flip the stage back to vertical and eventually land on a single engine."
- -04:01 "This flight includes multiple upgrades and improvements to address the findings of the rapid unsheduled disassembly we experienced on the last flight. This vehicle also incorporates changes to get us closer to the orbital configuration planned for [flight-ly?]."
- -02:00 "T -2 minutes, we continue to count down for Starship 15 flight. Propellant load is complete in the LOX system on the Starship. Methane fuel load is also complete on the Starship."
- -01:00 "T-1 minute, all systems remain go for the flight of Starship 15, we're getting ready to disconnect the quick disconnect from the vehicle in prepartion for flight."
- -00:00.8-.6 Ignition
- +00:01.2 Lift off
- +00:06 New camera angle: direct from fwd flap
- +00:30 "T+30 seconds, Starship 15 is airgoing [?] as we get a view of the 3 raptor engines as we're powering our way to 10km altitude in todays test flight."
- +01:04 "Just passed one minute into flight, we're through two kilometers altitude, all three raptor engines continued to burn. Next major event about one minute is we will turn off the first of the three raptor engines." [so approx. +02:10]
- +01:25-32 feed lost
- +01:34-02:24 feed lost; continued glitches
- +01:56 "Coming up at T+2 min, we appeare to have frozen the view from the engine cameras. [?] the raptor enginse continue to perform and we've got shutdown of engine three on time [approx. T+02:06]."
- +02:40 "T+2min 40 sec, while we try to regain video from the vehicle, we continue to ascend. We have just passed the 8 kilometer point of flight. Everything continues to look good on Starship 15."
- +03:28 "Coming up on three and a half minutes into flight, we're approaching the 10km altitude. We'll begin to hover here; we've had engine number two shutdown on time, we'll now be moving into the hover with one engine and in a little bit we will begin the flip over to horizontal position and begin our descent. Hopefully a ground camera will be able to bring us live views of the flight."
- +03:58 Engine RSN61 gimbles away from the other two enginses that have shut down previously to help transition into horizontal.
- +04:00 Shut down of engine RSN61
- +04:00 "Just passed T+4 min into flight, we've got the views back from the raptor engines."
- +04:33 "We get T+4 minutes 34 seconds. While we're working to regain video, looks like we've got a shot looking back on the flaps of Starship. We're in the horizontal descend phase now, we're passing 6 kilometers [+04:46]."
- +04:50 "Now a reminder, phase that's coming up as we get ready for landing, we will light 3 raptor engines, flip the vehicle from horizontal to vertical, if things look good, we will shut down one raptor engine and possibly a second one and land on a single engine in the landing zone."
- +05:06 "Five minutes into flight, raptor contueing to descend. We're coming up on 3km altitude."
- +05:08 or earlyer: Engine chill
- +05:40 Raptors gimbeling away from each other for relight
- +05:43 Ignition of RSN61, followed by the one right of it [only two engines!]
- +05:46 "Now we have ignition, Starship heading back to the landing zone"
- +05:47 Nearly vertical again, much gimbeling
- +05:52-53 Leg deployment [see frame per frame on stream!]
- +05:55 Looks like it flipped slightly to much
- +05:59 Engines shut down. Unclear if one engine shut down a little bit earlier. Landing
- +06:08 Clock stopped; Fire visible as soon as clouds moved away
- "And starbase flight control has confirmed, as you can see on the live video, we are down, the Starship has landed. We're going through the saving sequence in the flight computer right now, we'll be back in a moment."
- "Well if you've just joined us, you have missed a great flight. Right now we have successfully landed in the landing zone right on the concrete. You can see we do have a small fire on the base of the vehicle, not unusual with the methane fuel we're carrying as we continue to work on the test vehicle design. You may be able to see water going on the pad from the water canons. But again, Starship 15, powered by three raptor engines, we have successfully launched it from our facility in South Texas, landed after a routine flight where we shut engines down on the way to 10km, executed the horizontal unpowered descend and now we've got some great views of the engines lighting up as we came down for a landing in a nice slow velocity onto the concrete landing pad. The past two weeks have been full of acomplishments by the SpaceX team. We've had the incredible launch of the crew 2 astronauts on the crew dragon Resilience, we've had the first nighttime landing and recovery of the four astronauts on crew dragon Endevour's flight last Saturday night, and two successful flights of Falcon 9 in the past seven days, each successfully carrying 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. And now the SpaceX Texas team has flown a test flight of Starship with a landing back in the landing zone here in Starbase Texas. Also like to remember, this is the 60th anniversary of the first American in space, astronaut Alan Shepard in his Mercury capsule, and SpaceX has successfully landed Starship on this day. Again an outstanding period as we work to enable the future of human spaceflight and expansion into the solar system and with that we're going to conclude todays webcast with the views here of Starship 15. Thank you for joining us here at SpaceX and have a good day!"
SpaceX pre launch information
As early as Wednesday, May 5, the SpaceX team will attempt a high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 15 (SN15) – our fifth high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from Starbase in Texas. SN15 has vehicle improvements across structures, avionics and software, and the engines that will allow more speed and efficiency throughout production and flight: specifically, a new enhanced avionics suite, updated propellant architecture in the aft skirt, and a new Raptor engine design and configuration.
Similar to previous high-altitude flight tests of Starship, SN15 will be powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude. SN15 will perform a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.
The Starship prototype will descend under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location. SN15’s Raptor engines will then reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount.
A controlled aerodynamic descent with body flaps and vertical landing capability, combined with in-space refilling, are critical to landing Starship at destinations across the solar system where prepared surfaces or runways do not exist, and returning to Earth. This capability will enable a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration, interplanetary flights and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.
There will be a live feed of the flight test available here that will start a few minutes prior to liftoff. Given the dynamic schedule of development testing, stay tuned to our social media channels for updates as we move toward SpaceX’s fifth high-altitude flight test of Starship!
SpaceX post flight statement
On Wednesday, May 5, Starship serial number 15 (SN15) successfully completed SpaceX’s fifth high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from Starbase in Texas.
Similar to previous high-altitude flight tests of Starship, SN15 was powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude. SN15 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.
The Starship prototype descended under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps were actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enabled precise landing at the intended location. SN15’s Raptor engines reignited as the vehicle performed the landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down for a nominal landing on the pad.
These test flights of Starship are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.
Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on SN15’s successful flight and landing!
Official flight info
"Starship landing nominal!" (Elon Musk)
[See everyday astronaut: a bit tilted upon landing, but legs were able to absorb it]
It was visible on Sentinel cam from LabPadre that the antenna was tracking SN15 during its flight.