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SpaceX launch livestream: Elon Musk hails ‘epic achievement’ as Starship returns to Earth

Elon Musk’s Starship has successfully returned to Earth for the first time, completing its fourth mission and several critical tests before splashing into the ocean.

Billionaire Elon Musk hailed the “epic achievement” as the rocket made it back into the planet’s atmosphere after its three previous test flights ended with a fiery explosion for the 400ft tall launcher.

Engineers at the rocket company used today’s test flight to demonstrate the two-stage spacecraft’s reusable technology by performing a “soft” landing at sea with its Superheavy booster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The main Starship module then coasted through space, before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Indian Ocean – although it lost a few pieces of rocket along the way. 

“Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean,” Mr Musk said.

The mission blasted off from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, at 7.50am US central time, 1.50pm UK time.

The previous Starship mission in March saw Mr Musk’s rocket reach orbit and sail around the planet, although it disintegrated as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. 

Today’s successful re-entry paves the way for further tests of the rocket’s landing systems, before the company attempts crewed flights for NASA. The US space agency plans to use Starship for its Artemis III mission to return humans to the Moon by 2026.

Mr Musk, meanwhile, believes the rocket system could be used to take humans to Mars and beyond.

The livestream has now ended but you can rewatch the launch below: 

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