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The spacecraft makes a successful return trip into space

The spacecraft makes a successful return trip into space

On its fourth test flight, SpaceX's Super Heavy rocket achieved all of its goals: the Super Heavy launch pad touched down smoothly and the spacecraft survived its stay in space and difficult reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

The spacecraft was expected to be just around the corner. After three test flights marred by complete or partial malfunctions, the giant rocket was launched from the space company in southeastern Texas, United States. This time, the imposing launch pad, 120 meters high and weighing 5,000 tons, did not fail the test.

Relive all stages of this mission with our comments in live conditions.

Mission accomplished for Super Heavy

Although one of the Raptors' 33 engines failed during liftoff, the first stage, called Super Heavy, successfully completed the 2-minute, 45-second propulsion phase, as planned. The spacecraft then took over, and its six engines ignited during a hot separation. Once separated, the Super Heavy successfully completed return-to-Earth maneuvers and, by restarting 13, then 3, of its engines, was able to land gently in the Gulf of Mexico 7 minutes later. This stage had failed the previous test.

Returning to Earth is difficult but successful for the spacecraft

The spacecraft continued its journey in space, reaching a maximum altitude of 213 kilometers, before beginning its return to the atmosphere at a speed of more than 26 thousand kilometers per hour. The section covered with thermal protection tiles, well oriented towards the front of the track, played its role well. These long minutes of return were filmed live by two cameras placed on the ship. It was thus possible to see, in a previously unpublished sequence, that at least one of the fins intended for trajectory control had partially melted under the influence of heat generated by friction. Despite everything, this element worked in the last seconds of the flight, allowing the spacecraft to reach the vertical position after its engines ignited. Thus, it lands on the surface of the Indian Ocean at night at low speed.

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The next most ambitious test?

After congratulating the SpaceX teams on the success of this test, Elon Musk announced his use of the mechanical arms of the launch tower.