SpaceX Starship Launch Causes Grounding and Damage

SpaceX Starship Launch Causes Grounding and Damage

SpaceX’s 40-story Starship mega-rocket, the most powerful ever launched, took off towards space for the first time on April 20. However, the rocket’s Super Heavy booster fired more than two dozen truck-sized Raptor engines at once, causing debris to fly and soil and sand to rain down on a town five miles away. The launchpad was left with a large crater, and the booster failed to separate 24 miles above the ground, causing the entire rocket to tumble until it exploded. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now grounding Starship to investigate. This is standard FAA procedure for mishap investigations. Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO, has previously criticized FAA regulations for slowing down Starship’s progress. The company must also assess and repair the damage caused to its launchpad from the rocket’s forceful liftoff.

SpaceX needs Starship’s unprecedented power to realize Musk’s dreams of establishing a settlement on Mars. The company must wait until the FAA determines that the mishap does not affect public safety, and depending on circumstances, some investigations may take months to conclude. Musk had previously stated that he would launch again in two months, but he has been overly optimistic about launch dates in the past. SpaceX must repair the damage to the launchpad and request a modification to its launch license to fly another Starship.

During a Twitter Spaces session the day before the launch, Musk’s biggest concern was that a “fireball” incident could melt the launchpad if one of the engines failed. In such a scenario, it would take SpaceX several months to rebuild the launchpad. The launchpad had not been finished, and SpaceX had begun building a water-cooled steel plate to go under the launchpad three months prior, but the plate was not ready in time. The company thought the heat-resistant concrete below the launchpad would survive the 15-million-pound blast of the rocket’s 33 Raptor engines.

There were no injuries related to the Starship launch, but debris from the explosion on the launchpad was expected to be limited to a 700-acre area. However, residents of a town five miles away from the launch site, Port Isabel, Texas, found themselves in an ash-like rain of particulates kicked up during the launch. It is unclear how extensive the damage is or how long it will take for SpaceX to repair the launchpad.


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