Photos show SpaceX's Starship rocket blew a crater into its launchpad and flung concrete chunks hundreds of feet during liftoff
- SpaceX's Starship blew a huge hole in its launchpad during takeoff last week and scattered debris.
- The rocket exploded minutes after lifting off, after failing a crucial flight maneuver, on April 20.
But the rocket wasn't the only thing left in pieces.
A video shared on LabPadre's YouTube account shows a large crater beneath the launchpad's circular launch mount in Boca Chica, Texas.
Starship is the tallest, most powerful rocket ever built, capable of generating nearly 17 million pounds of thrust upon liftoff. And all that power was enough to cause some major destruction near the launchpad.
Other pieces of equipment, including storage tanks near the launchpad, also suffered damage, which has raised questions about when Starship may be able to attempt another launch to space.
The Federal Aviation Administration is overseeing SpaceX as it conducts a "mishap investigation" to assess any potential safety risks. While the investigation is ongoing, the FAA has grounded Starship.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that the launch also ignited a 3.5-acre fire in a state park to the south, and spread debris across 385 acres, including some state park land.
You can see residual debris all over the ground in the scene below, shortly after launch:
SpaceX did not respond to Insider's requests for comment.
The damage to the launchpad may have been averted if it had a flame trench or diverter, which is designed to redirect the rocket's blast energy and heat away from the launch site, according to SpaceFlightNow. It was also missing a water-deluge system, which helps further reduce energy blast around the launch site during liftoff.
Musk tweeted Friday, the day after the rocket launched and exploded, that SpaceX was working on a steel plate to reinforce the launchpad, but it wasn't ready in time:
—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 21, 2023
As a result, chunks of concrete were strewn across the launch site.
The Texas division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service also reported that a "plume cloud of pulverized concrete" deposited material up to 6.5 miles northwest of the launch, according to Bloomberg. Indeed, residents of Port Isabel, a town roughly five miles northwest of the site, reported ash-like particulates raining down on them from the launch.
Last week's flight was the first time SpaceX launched a Starship rocket on top of it its Super Heavy booster. About three minutes after liftoff, the booster failed to separate from the rocket, which is a crucial maneuver to allow Starship to continue to orbit.
After the rocket completed several spins as it tumbled back toward Earth, SpaceX initiated the "flight termination system" and blew it up.
This isn't SpaceX's first explosion — four early prototypes of the Starship also ended in giant fireballs, though those explosions were inadvertent. However, SpaceX declared the April 20 flight a success since Starship cleared the launch tower.
—SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 20, 2023
It's unclear when Starship will fly again. In addition to the FAA investigation, SpaceX must assess the debris field and probably needs to repair the launchpad.
This post has been updated. It was originally published on April 24, 2023.
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