Flight 4 Starship survives reentry burn and makes a successful splashdown landing

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Yesterday’s Starship launch (Flight 4/IFT-4) accomplished all of its goals. The successful launch and reentry of both Super Heavy Booster 11 (1st stage) and Starship 29 (2nd stage) ended in a soft splashdown in the ocean.

According to SpaceX, Starship Flight 4 met all of its objectives and is going to provide a significant amount of useful data that will help in future launches of the space vehicle.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk guaranteed excitement for each Starship flight and Flight 4 exceeded expectations.

Starship lifted off from the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) at the Starbase launch site in Boca Chica, Texas on 6th June at 7:50 AM Central Time (CT/Texas time).

The Flight 4 liftoff looked effortless despite 1 out of 33 Raptor engines did not fire at launch. This lone engine located on the right side of the outer ring remained off during the entire flight. However, Super Heavy B11 successfully delivered Ship 29 at an altitude of 73 km.

Flight 4 Starship lifts off from the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) at SpaceX’s launch site in Starbase, Texas.
Flight 4 Starship lifts off from the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) at SpaceX’s launch site in Starbase, Texas. Credit: SpaceX via X (Twitter).
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Video: Slow motion of Flight 4 Starship’s liftoff.

Jump to:

Flight 4 Hot-stage Jettison

SpaceX successfully jettisoned the hot-stage adapter attached to the Flight 4 Super Heavy Booster (B11). At around T+ 4 minutes 10 seconds into the flight and after 1 minute 15 seconds of stage separation, the Flight 4 Starship Hot-stage adapter (ring) jettisoned from the booster.

According to SpaceX, jettisoning or separation of the Hot-stage Ring in space is a temporary workaround to reduce the mass of the Super Heavy booster before it descends back to Earth. Since reusability is the prime objective of Starship development, SpaceX is developing lighter hot-stage adapters for future versions of the Super Heavy boosters that will not need to be jettisoned.

During the Flight 4 commentary, the SpaceX engineers hosting the event explained the Hot-stage Jettison and the adapter’s implementation in future versions of the Starship.

Future designs give Super Heavy boosters a lighter weight and integrated hot-stage intended for full reusability which will mitigate the need to jettison the hot-stage.

Video: The Starship Hot-stage Ring was successfully jettisoned during the Flight 4 test.
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Flight 4 Starship lifts off from the launch integration tower (Mechazilla) at the SpaceX launch site at Starbase, Texas on 6th June 2024. Opened Chopsticks visible in the background.
Flight 4 Starship lifts off from the launch integration tower (Mechazilla) at the SpaceX launch site at Starbase, Texas on 6th June 2024. Opened Chopsticks are visible in the background. Credit: SpaceX via X (Twitter).

The payload for this test was data.

SpaceX

Super Heavy Splashdown

After T+ 7 minutes of the Starship launch, the space vehicle’s 1st stage rocket booster (Booster 11) made a soft landing into the Gulf of Mexico.

In the previous Starship launch attempt (Flight 3/IFT-3), the Super Heavy booster (Booster 10) exploded just before its splashdown. The termination of Booster 10 happened because 10 out of 13 engines failed to ignite for the boostback burn before splashdown.

SpaceX successfully mitigated this issue for Flight 4 Booster 11 landing. All 13 Raptor engines successfully re-ignited to provide boostback burn and the rocket made a soft landing in the ocean.

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Video: Starship damaged on reentry but continued its planned landing.

Ship 29 Successful Reentry and Splashdown

After a successful ascent and coasting, Starship 29 started its journey back to Earth. This began the most vital test of the space vehicle — standing against the reentry burn of the atmosphere.

Entering the Earth’s dense atmosphere at an orbital velocity of 5 miles/sec (8 km/sec) creates extreme aerodynamic heating against the body of an object. Starship’s outer structure or shell is made of stainless steel that can heat up fast during an atmospheric entry (reentry burn).

To protect Starship from thousands of degrees of heat at reentry, SpaceX designed and engineered a thermal protection system (TPS) consisting of 18,000 heat shield tiles. These lightweight black TPS tiles cover the entire belly side of the Starship to sustain the reentry burn.

During Starship Flight 4, the ship entered the atmosphere at the speed of 26,716 km/h. High-temperature plasma started to be visible at around T+ 45 mins 24 seconds into the flight.

High-temperature heat plasma visible from an external Starship camera at T+ 48 mins 10 seconds into Flight 4 as the ship descents for a soft landing in the Indian Ocean.
High-temperature heat plasma visible from an external Starship camera at T+ 48 mins 10 seconds into Flight 4 as the ship descents for a soft landing in the Indian Ocean. Credit: SpaceX livestream on X (watch recording below).
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The descent became ever intense after the plasma was first observed around Flight 4 Starship. The Starship heat shield tiles successfully endured the heat created by the hypersonic velocity and extreme friction during the descent.

However, as the ship closed down to the soft landing in the Indian Ocean, several of the TPS tiles were damaged or lost. The external camera installed above the aft flap of the Flight 4 Starship showed the intense damage sustained by the ship (watch in the livestream recording below).

“Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean,” CEO Elon Musk posted on X as SpaceX officially confirmed the splashdown of Flight 4 Starship.

SpaceX’s official verdict on the 4th orbital launch and landing test of Starship.
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Stay tuned for future updates on Starship and SpaceX, Follow us on:
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More Starship News

Iqtidar Ali
Iqtidar Alihttp://www.teslaoracle.com
Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on XAutoWorld.com, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii

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