SpaceX aces fourth Starship flight test

Starship launches on its 4th flight test (Credit SpaceX)

SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Super Heavy booster and Starship on its fourth integrated flight test, with each making a soft splashdown in the water.

Starship took to the skies at 7:50 am CT from a foggy Starbase, Texas, in an effort to surpass previous flight milestones.

As the countdown hit zero, 32 of 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy booster lit, with the outlier being an engine on the outer ring. Despite the engine out, the booster still ascended with ease away from the launch mount and broke through the thick fog into clear blue skies with views streamed back to the ground from just above one of the grid fins.

As Starship climbed, everything continued to operate nominally all the way through the hot staging which saw Super Heavy Booster 11 shut down all but its 3 center Raptor engines as Starship 29 lit its 6 Raptor engines to pull away from the massive booster. As soon as Starship was clear, Booster 11 completed a flip and boostback burn to begin its trip for a planned soft touchdown in the Gulf of Mexico by relighting 10 Raptor engines.

Once the boostback burn was complete, the hot staging ring was ejected to reduce the overall mass of the booster to help it survive reentry and landing. Future Super Heavy boosters will feature a lighter hot staging ring that will not be ejected. As the booster made its way back, it re-orientated to vertical and began re-entry back through the atmosphere, and unlike the Falcon 9, it does not perform an entry burn.

At around 7 minutes and 15 seconds into flight, the Super Heavy booster lit 12 out of a planned 13 engines for its landing burn, followed shortly by quite a bit of debris flying by the onboard camera, but it did not affect anything critical as seconds later Booster 11 made a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico before a slow planned tip over into the water.

As Booster 11 completed the first successful soft landing, Starship 29 fired its six Raptor engines, three sea level and three vacuum, with engine shutoff coming in at eight and a half minutes into flight. The starship then entered a long coast phase as it passed between the Florida Keys and Cuba and transited over the Atlantic Ocean, followed by Africa.

During IFT-3, live views were provided for a majority of this portion but due to an unknown issue, cameras didn’t come back until just before 37 minutes into the flight. Elon Musk posted on X that they had a data signal the entire time including live views from internal cameras.

45 minutes into the flight, the true test of Starship began as plasma started to build up, but this time, Starship was in the correct orientation, and the heatshield was facing the correct way to give the ship its best chance at survival.

As Starship descended, plasma build-up increased with callouts from mission control noting rising temperatures on the nose but all within acceptable limits. At just over 54 minutes into the flight, Starship made it further than the third flight test and into unknown territory.

Plasma builds up as Starship re-enters the atmosphere (Credit SpaceX)

57 minutes into the flight, peak heating had passed but tiles were starting to fall away from the forward flap followed by melting of the lower portion, despite this damage, Starship held strong and in the correct orientation as it descended.

Starship continued its descent and, with significant damage, still made it through to its own landing burn and performed its flip to a vertical orientation and a soft touchdown in the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

Damage to the forward flap as seen during the landing burn (Credit SpaceX)

Even with the damage inflicted on Starship, it completed all test objectives while providing SpaceX with incredibly valuable data that will be used to make the ship stronger on future test flights. The Starlink antenna also survived the entire flight which ensured this data made it back to mission control.

With this successful mission complete, SpaceX could launch the 5th flight by mid to late July and possibly even attempt a catch of the Super Heavy booster according to Elon Musk.

Catch a replay of this epic mission below!

How do you think this flight went overall, and will the fifth flight take place by August?

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

SpaceX aces fourth Starship flight test
To Top