VIDEO: SpaceX Starship lights up the sky in dramatic Earth return

SpaceX released compelling footage of the Starship during its swift descent over the Indian Ocean, approximately 45 minutes post-launch
The image shows SpaceXs Starship rocket reentering Earths atmosphere. — X/@SpaceX
The image shows SpaceX's Starship rocket reentering Earth's atmosphere. — X/@SpaceX

SpaceX's Starship rocket defied expectations by successfully lifting off without incident on Thursday morning, marking a stark contrast to its previous test flights.

The launch involved both the Super Heavy booster and the upper-stage Starship spacecraft. This recent test stands out as the most triumphant to date, following two previous attempts in April and November of the past year that ended in dramatic explosions, or what SpaceX humorously refers to as "rapid unscheduled disassembly."

This latest test flight, conducted at SpaceX's Starbase facility in Texas, signified a significant step forward for the company and its ambitious space exploration goals. It's also a win for NASA, which plans to use the Starship for missions to the moon and potentially even to Mars and further.

Key achievements during this test included successful stage separation, the booster's initial flip manoeuvre, and executing a full boost back burn that directed it towards a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the spacecraft reached orbital altitude for the first time.

SpaceX released compelling footage of the Starship during its swift descent over the Indian Ocean, approximately 45 minutes post-launch. This footage streamed via SpaceX's own Starlink terminals fitted on the spacecraft, captured the Starship as it heated up during reentry at velocities nearing 17,000 mph. 

Although the aim was a sea landing, reports indicated that the Starship broke apart shortly after, due to a failure in its heat shield.

The tweet from SpaceX, dated March 14, 2024, showcases the Starship reentering Earth's atmosphere, providing an unprecedented view through the plasma.

This latest test, especially the Starship's first reentry manoeuvre, has yielded invaluable data for SpaceX's engineers, particularly concerning thermal management and control during hypersonic reentry. This information is crucial for refining the spacecraft's design for future tests, which are anticipated to happen soon.

As SpaceX evaluates the data from this flight, preparation is underway for subsequent tests with Starship and Super Heavy vehicles. The company is aiming to ramp up its launch frequency throughout the year. In its website statement, SpaceX extended congratulations to its entire team for the success of this third flight test.