Starship leaves a huge crater on the launch pad

Before the first orbital flight of Starship, Elon Musk said that he would consider it a success if it did not explode on the launch pad. Fortunately for the owner of SpaceX, the 120-meter rocket really managed to take off and get to the mark of almost 40 km. But, despite this, the last launch caused very significant damage to the launch pad. And it seemed much more serious than the experts expected. 

Consequences of Starship launch

The pictures taken a few days after the launch of Starship clearly demonstrate the scale of the destruction. Among them are huge concrete fragments, pieces of twisted iron, as well as a 20-meter crater under the launch pad. 

Consequences of the launch of Starship. Source: AFP

According to Elon Musk, the impact force of the Starship engines turned out to be much stronger than expected. Instead of eroding, it simply destroyed the reinforced concrete, scattering fragments within a radius of half a kilometer from the launch pad. According to eyewitnesses, a raised cloud of dust flew over the town, located at a distance of several kilometers from the launch site.

Debris dislodged from the launch pad during the launch of Starship. Source: AFP

At the same time, the steel structures of the launch pad coped with the launch of Starship much better than concrete.

Reasons for the destruction of the launch pad

According to preliminary estimates, it will take specialists at least several months to repair all the damage. This may delay the next Starship test.

The debris of the launch pad that was destroyed by the launch of Starship. Source: AFP

But why did the launch pad get so much damage? According to experts, one of the main reasons is that it did not have a water supply system capable of cooling it and reducing the impact of the shock wave. Also, there was no trench on the launch pad designed for the removal of incandescent gases. Both elements are quite expensive and require a lot of time for construction. Since SpaceX’s main priority was the Starship test, the company decided to conduct it without waiting for the installation of a water supply system.

Metal debris left after the launch of Starship. Source: AFP

Obviously, the calculation that the strength of the launch pad would be enough to withstand the power of 33 Raptor engines was not justified. Now SpaceX will have to get the lessons of the past test and make changes to its spacecraft to make it as reusable as the Starship.

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