On Friday, May 19, SpaceX released a 20-second video demonstrating that it is already conducting tests on technology aimed at fortifying the ground beneath its enormous Starship rocket's orbital launch pad. The launch pad, situated at SpaceX's Starbase facility in South Texas, endured significant damage during the inaugural test flight of a fully-integrated Starship vehicle on April 20. During the test flight, the sheer power of the Super Heavy rocket’s 33 Raptor engines created a substantial crater beneath the pad. As a result, chunks of shattered concrete were sent soaring through the air.
SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk shared that SpaceX is actively developing a solution to mitigate such damage. He said that they plan to build “a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount.” The footage of the test shows a methane-fueled Raptor engine ignited with its beam hitting a steel-plate and a massive stream of water. “One hell of a plasma beam!” said Musk when he shared the video via Twitter, shown below. A single Raptor V2 engine is capable of generating around 230 tons of thrust. Engineers must build a strong structure that could support such intense power, collectively, all 33 Raptor engines generate over 17 million pounds of thrust!
Regarding launch pad modifications –“We're going to put down a lot of steel” under the launch tower before the next Starship flight with a water flame diverter system, Musk said during a Subscriber-only Twitter Spaces discussion on April 29. “We certainly didn't expect” to destroy the concrete under the launch pad during the flight test, he said (pictured below). He speculates that the crater was caused due to “compressed the sand underneath the concrete to such a degree that the concrete effectively bent and then cracked.”
The attempt to send Starship into orbit on April 20th was a captivating event. The stainless-steel rocket-ship ascended an impressive 39 kilometers above the Starbase launch site before encountering an unfortunate midair explosion. Subsequently, SpaceX disclosed that the flight concluded with a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) after just 4 minutes of flight due to the shutdown of several Raptor V2 engines. In response to the deviation from its intended trajectory, SpaceX made the decision to initiate the rocket's Flight Termination System (FTS), resulting in its self-destruction.
One hell of a plasma beam! https://t.co/y8uOTeFlsD— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 19, 2023
Currently, SpaceX is preparing to perform the second orbital launch attempt at Boca Chica Beach. This week, Starbase teams rolled out the next Starship prototype (SN25) to the suborbital launch mount to begin pre-flight tests, which will involve a set of proof tests and static-fire engine tests. Musk recently said that the next attempt at reaching orbit could take place within the next 2 months. The company must first fix the damage at the launch tower and install the water-cooled steel-plate system under the launch mount before taking flight. SpaceX will also need a new spaceflight license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before its next attempt.
4/20 View of SpaceX Starship first-ever launch attempt to orbit from Isla Blanca at South Padre Island, Texas. It was AMAZING!! Congrats on lifting off the Starbase launchpad!! @elonmusk @SpaceX— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) April 20, 2023
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.