SpaceX has been working on reinforcing the Starbase launch site’s orbital launch tower mount since the first fully-integrated Starship lifted off on April 20. When the gigantic stainless-steel Super Heavy rocket propelled off the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) with the power of at least 30 out of 33 Raptor V2 engines, it created a substantial crater beneath the pad. As a result, chunks of shattered concrete were sent soaring through the air. 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 at full throttle!
SpaceX is actively developing a solution to mitigate such damage. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that they are working to build “a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount.” This week, on July 16, engineers started to test the newly installed steel water deluge system. NASASpaceflight shared a video clip of the OLM water deluge system turned on for the first time, it spewed out a lot of water!
Another South Texas photographer, who goes by the name Starship Gazer on Twitter, captured a different angle of the OLM water deluge system’s first test, their video is featured below. During a recent Twitter Spaces session, Musk described the newly installed system —“[...] We have a sort of a steel sandwich, which is basically two thick plates of steel that are welded together with channels going through perforations in the top so it will actually shoot a lot of water out,” he said on June 24. “Think of it like a gigantic upside-down shower head. It's going to basically blast water upwards while the rocket is over the pad to counteract the massive amount of heat from the booster. The booster is basically like the world's biggest cutting torch with a massive amount of ... heat, but also a massive amount of force,” he explained. Musk said that builders would add roughly 1,000 cubic meters of steel-reinforced high-strength concrete at the Boca Chica, Texas, launch tower. The modifications should “the base of the pad in much better shape than last time,” he said. In addition, engineers will program the Super Heavy rocket at higher throttle to get it away from the pad faster to diminish potential launch pad damage.
Starbase teams continue to prepare Starship SN25 and Booster 9 for the second orbital launch attempt that is expected to take place before this year ends. Musk believes there is a 60% chance that it will reach orbit this time around. The increased confidence stems from a “tremendous number” of overhauls made to the spacecraft, with “well over a thousand changes” implemented since the last flight test. “I think the probability of this next flight working, getting to orbit, is much higher than the last one. Maybe it’s like 60%,” he said during the Twitter Spaces chat last month.
VIDEO: First-Ever Starbase Orbital Launch Mount Water Deluge Test
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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.