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As NASA watches Starship closely, here’s what the agency wants to see next

The rocket for SpaceX's fourth full-scale Starship test flight awaits liftoff from Starbase, the company's private launch base in South Texas.

Enlarge / The rocket for SpaceX’s fourth full-scale Starship test flight awaits liftoff from Starbase, the company’s private launch base in South Texas. (credit: SpaceX)

Few people were happier with the successful outcome of last week’s test flight of SpaceX’s Starship launch system than a NASA engineer named Catherine Koerner.

In remarks after the spaceflight, Koerner praised the “incredible” video of the Starship rocket and its Super Heavy booster returning to Earth, with each making a soft landing. “That was very promising, and a very, very successful engineering test,” she added, speaking at a meeting of the Space Studies Board.

A former flight director, Koerner now manages development of the “exploration systems” that will support the Artemis missions for NASA—a hugely influential position within the space agency. This includes the Space Launch System rocket, NASA’s Orion spacecraft, spacesuits, and the Starship vehicle that will land on the Moon.

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