SpaceX’s Starship took its maiden voyage this morning, successfully lifting off of its launch pad and nearly making it to stage separation. The company said the test delivered notable data and information that will carry over to future launches. However, the condition of the launchpad comes into question, and what will SpaceX do about it, and what exactly caused the damage?
While Starship took to the skies on its maiden flight, the slow build of power started to devastate the launch pad (or Stage Zero as SpaceX refers to it) and surrounding area with debris. Though currently unconfirmed, debris may have struck the bottom of the Super Heavy Booster, causing it to lose engines right at liftoff.
Liftoff from Starbase pic.twitter.com/rgpc2XO7Z9
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 20, 2023
A massive crater was gouged into the ground by the 33 Raptor engines. The resulting debris blasted the surrounding areas, impacting Ground Support Equipment and destroying cars hosting livestream equipment and remote cameras set by the media the day before.
— LabPadre (@LabPadre) April 20, 2023
It will be interesting to see how SpaceX attempts to solve this problem during future launches. They are currently building out a water deluge system, but will it be enough, or will they need to add a flame trench under the launch mount at Starbase?
Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship!
Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months. pic.twitter.com/gswdFut1dK
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 20, 2023
The resulting damage from this launch has significant implications for future operations since this same launch pad style is currently under construction at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), which also hosts Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. LC-39A cannot afford to have heavy debris thrown over 1000 feet, impacting equipment necessary for Human Spaceflight and Falcon Heavy launch operations.