The Space X Starship — the largest and most powerful machine ever built — is an extraordinary concept and extremely experimental. That it blew up shortly after launch is not surprising or unexpected.
But what may be an eye-opener is the reason it blew up. The 33 raptor rockets that fired up at launch scoured out a large part of the concrete launch pad, and the rebounding concrete thrown up by the 15 million pounds of thrust probably damaged the three raptor rockets that failed shortly after launch. This may have contributed to the failure of the second stage to separate from the rocket that ended up blowing the entire assembly to smithereens.
Related: RAPID UNSCHEDULED DISASSEMBLY: First Starship Orbital Test Flight Goes BOOM
At launch, the destruction of the concrete launch pad is clearly visible.
Those huge billowing clouds contained shrapnel that damaged nearby structures and vehicles. People living in Port Isabel, Texas reported debris falling from the sky. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen during launches of NASA rockets at Cape Canaveral.
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This is what’s left of the launchpad.
Simple human error is to blame. In fact, Musk says the company was constructing a huge metal plate to place under the rocket to deflect the flames and keep the launch pad intact but it wasn’t ready in time and the engineers felt the concrete wouldn’t be too badly damaged.
They were obviously wrong.
Even though Starship only flew for four minutes, it’s an incredible achievement to get it off the ground at all. The bird has twice the thrust of the rocket that took us to the Moon, it’s 80 feet taller, it can lift 200,000 lbs into earth orbit, and it’s reusable.
It doesn’t get any better than that.