SpaceX's Starship has launched into space and landed as a Mattel Matchbox toy.
The reusable spacecraft, which flew a mostly-successful second test flight on Saturday (Nov. 18), is among the latest additions to the classic toy brand's line of die-cast aircraft (and spacecraft). The Starship, along with two new SpaceX Dragon capsules and an upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket, are part of a multi-year licensing agreement between SpaceX and Mattel.
The Matchbox Sky Busters SpaceX Starship, which recently became available at select U.S. toy and hobby stores, replicates the stainless steel, 165-foot-tall (65-meter) spacecraft as a metal and plastic 4.5-inch (11.4-centimeter) scale model. The toy version includes details found on the real ship, including its fins, thermal tiles and six Raptor engines.
Like other vehicles in the Sky Busters assortment, the Starship comes packaged with a plastic display stand and playmat. The latter features an aerial view of the surface of Mars, such that the Starship can appear to be on approach to a landing on the Red Planet.
SpaceX has designed Starship to carry crew and cargo to Mars, in addition to flying other missions, such as serving as the human landing system for NASA's Artemis III mission to the moon planned for no earlier than late 2025.
Shipping with the same mix of toys as the Starship is the Matchbox Sky Busters SpaceX Dragon, a scale version of the company's current astronaut and cargo transport vehicle for NASA and private missions into low Earth orbit, including to the International Space Station. The 2-inch-tall (5.1-centimeter) die-cast model reproduces the descent capsule that returns to Earth.
The included playmat features an overhead view of a body of water, as recovery boats approach another Dragon capsule splashing down under four orange and white parachutes.
Both the SpaceX Starship and Dragon retail for $5 each where Matchbox Sky Busters toys are sold. (Online, Entertainment Earth is now taking pre-orders for a case of eight Sky Busters toys, including the Starship and Dragon, for $32 with shipping expected this month).
The Sky Busters Dragon is different from two other similar Matchbox toys.
Mattel's first release under the SpaceX license was a die-cast Dragon spacecraft that included both the descent capsule and its unpressurized, power-providing trunk. The 2.5-inch-tall (6.4-centimeter) Matchbox Dragon came in a display-ready box when it began shipping in May.
Now a new, almost identical version of the Dragon is in U.S. stores, only this one is packaged on a card like other Matchbox cars (or in a box for international sale). The Dragon toy, itself, differs from the earlier release in one key way: it omits the metallic silver and black detailing meant to replicate the solar panels that line one side of the spacecraft's expendable trunk module. To date, the only version of this Dragon to fly without solar cells on its trunk was on a 2015 pad abort test.
The carded Dragon with the all-white trunk ships with Matchbox's "Mix 12" for 2023. (Entertainment Earth is taking pre-orders for the case, including the Dragon, for $34 with shipping expected this month.)
In 2024, Mattel plans to continue its SpaceX-themed releases with a Matchbox Sky Busters die-cast model of the company's Falcon Heavy rocket, according to a preview presented at this year's Matchbox Collectors Gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The SpaceX vehicles are not the only spacecraft to be made into Matchbox toys. Earlier sets include NASA-logo adorned trucks, the agency's Space Exploration Vehicle and, as part of the Sky Busters line, the space shuttle and Sierra Space's Dream Chaser space plane.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.