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Serious Damage And Crater Left At Texas Base After Test Flight Of SpaceX's Giant Rocket

Serious damage and crater left at Texas base after test flight of SpaceX's giant rocket. The repair work is expected to take several months and may delay future launch attempts, potentially slowing the progress of NASA's upcoming Moon missions.

William Willis
Apr 24, 20233972 Shares53679 Views
Serious damage and crater left at Texas base after test flight of SpaceX's giant rocket. The repair work is expected to take several months and may delay future launch attempts, potentially slowing the progress of NASA's upcoming Moon missions.
Despite the potential risks, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had previously expressed that even launching Starship without damaging its launch pad would be considered a success. Fortunately, the 390-foot-tall rocket was able to lift off and ascend for approximately four minutes before ultimately crashing and exploding over the Gulf of Mexico.
However, it appears that SpaceX engineers may have underestimated the impact that the 33 first-stage rocket engines of Starship would have on the launch site. Several days later, an AFP photographer witnessed the aftermath of the test flight, describing the area around the launch pad as desolate.
SpaceX's footage of the Starship's takeoff displayed a storm of debris being propelled as far as 1,400 feet (420 meters) away, reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Local media sources reported a cloud of dust lingering over a nearby town miles away from the launch site.
Images of the launch site indicate that the massive launch tower remained intact, while the rocket mount, which supports the Starship before liftoff, suffered damage but is still standing. However, a large crater was left underneath the rocket mount, as revealed by social media posts.
Elon Musk, who heads SpaceX, acknowledged on Twitter over the weekend that the engines' force during the throttle-up phase might have caused the concrete to shatter, rather than merely eroding it. This comment was made by Musk, who also oversees another company in his portfolio.

Giant SpaceX rocket leaves crater, serious damage at Texas base #science #discovery #universe

MIT's Olivier de Weck, an expert in astronautics and engineering, shared with AFP that the extent of the debris and disruption caused by the Starship test flight was likely greater than anticipated. He noted that the main damage occurred beneath the launch pad, where the flames from the engines impacted the ground, and that repairing the resulting crater would take several months.
De Weck also highlighted that the Texas launch site did not have a "water deluge system" in place, which is commonly used to flood the pad with water to cool it and absorb sound and shock waves. Furthermore, the site lacked a flame trench, a feature that is designed to channel hot exhaust away from the pad. However, incorporating such features can be costly, especially when they need to withstand the immense power of Starship.
Elon Musk acknowledged that SpaceX had initiated construction on a large water-cooled steel plate to be installed underneath the launch mount following the test flight. However, the plate was not completed in time, and the engineering team incorrectly assessed that the launch pad could handle the test flight.
Despite Musk's ambitious targets, he suggests that another launch attempt could be made within one to two months.
Philip Metzger, a scientist who formerly worked on launch pad physics at NASA, noted that the steel plate approach could have been a viable solution. Nevertheless, he cautioned that the rocket's size and the prolonged period required for it to clear the pad meant that the heat generated by the 33 engines "could conceivably melt the steel."
While the approach would not entirely eliminate the shock waves, Metzger thinks Starship's design may be sturdy enough to endure them. Metzger noted that designing a launch pad can be as challenging as creating a rocket.
In November, NASA's SLS mega-rocket caused damage to its launch pad in Florida during its debut launch, rendering the launch-tower elevators inoperable. SpaceX will need to identify the exact cause of the problems that emerged during the test flight before conducting the next one. In the company's video feed, several of Starship's engines appeared to malfunction.
According to de Weck, SpaceX will also have to secure a new flight authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is conducting an investigation into the explosion. The agency has confirmed that there were no injuries resulting from Thursday's test and has stated that it will not approve any new tests if public safety is at risk.


In de Weck's view, the test was "more a success than a failure," which echoes Musk's own assessment. He believes that SpaceX's willingness to take risks and "break things" is what enables the company to achieve its remarkable capabilities. "But they learn from it," he added, "and improve very, very quickly."
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