The SpaceX Starship has twice the thrust of the Apollo Saturn V rocket. This massive power ripped up the concrete pad and dirt under the rocket in the launch attempt.
This means that SpaceX will need to build a flame diverter/deflector. A flame deflector is a sloped construction beneath a launch pad that diverts the rocket’s exhaust to the side. At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, flame deflectors are made of steel and covered with a high-temperature concrete surface. SpaceX will likely need to build one that is over 12 meters high. A huge rocket like the SpaceX Starship will have its exhaust channeled by the flame deflectors into a 150-250 meter concrete-and-brick flame trench that transects the launch pad. Above the flame deflectors are 16 nozzles that release water to suppress the noise, the effects of which could damage the rocket and its payloads.
UPDATE: The FAA has grounded SpaceX Starship prototypes until the standard mishap investigation is complete and the cleanup process and mitigation plans passes regulators.
UPDATE: SpaceX has been building a massive water-cooled steel plate for the Starship launchpad which will fix the concrete and dirt damage problems.
UPDATE on Two New Nextbigfuture SpaceX Articles:
SpaceX Board Member, Antonio Gracias said that SpaceX will take over transoceanic air cargo within ten years.
SpaceX Starship Can Be Better for the Environment Than the Large Cargo Planes.
Continued Analysis of the Actual SpaceX Starship Launch Blasting Hundreds of Tons of Dirt and Concrete
It looks like hundreds of tons of concrete and dirt was thrown hundreds of meters and in some cases a mile or more. The concrete and dirt chunks likely damaged several of the engines. SpaceX and Elon were thinking about the future launches from Mars and Moon and hoping they could get away without a flame diverter. This problem shows that when we go to Mars and Moon, we will need pad infrastructure. However, the moon has much lower gravity and small engines at the top of the Starship could be used for liftoff before engaging the main engines. Mars has lower gravity than Earth as well.
If you re-watch the launch, there are large chunks of debris seen in the smoke of the rocket launch. Keep in mind that the image in the Youtube is that the two-stage rocket is about 120 meters tall or the height of a 50-story skyscraper. It is 9 meters wide (29.5 feet). A piece of debris that is over half of the width of the rocket is larger than an SUV (18-19 feet long).
For fun, I was playing with ideas for a flame diverter that could be adapted to the current OLM, there are 100s of options. But in the end, I’ve come to the conclusion that these ideas are only a band-aid fix, also still have issues with the infrastructure surrounding the site. pic.twitter.com/r6nuyk6X80
— Tony Bela – Infographic news (@InfographicTony) April 22, 2023
The damage in Boca Chica at the Starbase launch site looks pretty serious, but a former senior SpaceXer from there says he believes the pad can be repaired; and a (water-cooled?) flame diverter installed in 4 to 6 months. Just passing on what I was told.
— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) April 21, 2023
3 months ago, we started building a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount.
Wasn’t ready in time & we wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that Fondag would make it through 1 launch.
Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 21, 2023
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
54 thoughts on “SpaceX Starship Blasted Hundreds of Tons of Dirt and Concrete #Space #SpaceX #Starship”
Regarding landing on the Moon/Mars and lifting off, there is no reason engines have to be at the tale of a rocket in low or no atmosphere missions. They can be closer to the top even several feet from the fuselage, held out on booms. I would use the normal Starship to go into orbit and then transfer all cargo/astronauts to one modified in space as I described, and actually go to other locations using that.
I would design all the Starships in a way that engines can quickly be removed or attached. That makes many possible operations cheaper. Especially, in the construction of spinning space stations using components from the bodies of Starships, where engines are just dead weight. Sending up a Starship, to bring back a bunch of engines from previous missions, can save a lot of construction costs, and fuel. A rocket that is configured to go from Earth orbit to Mars does not need 29 engines. If it is one way, probably 4 would do the job.
Do you think the heat the engines give off would affect the rocket or the passengers inside?
It is not just the heat. The sound vibration certainly contributed to the damage. Any solution should address that as well. You don’t just want sitting water. You want that water churned up, ideally making a foam. The foam can better contain the heat and vibration. The launch mount is a bit short for a rocket this large, in my opinion, as well. With more room under there, there are more options. The sound hitting the surface, if not the heat, should also be reduced with distance.
I would have water flooding in below, but have air jets blasting air into the water as it exits tubes, not that unlike faucet aerators. That could even be partially powered by the thrust in a number of possible ways.
The forces and temperatures on the pad seem so extreme. I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to use a water filled pit as the launch “pad”. The water would absorb the heat and mechanical loading quite well, and would be cheap to replace.
Dig a hole under the space craft like an exhaust pipe on your car and vent it out into the bay and let mother nature cool it.
We don’t need to add more waste material and pollution to the Gulf of Mexico waters. There are major fisheries and turtle habitats in the area, let alone hundreds of thousands of people swimming and playing in these waters.
I suspect the problem with that would be that in a full test firing there is a lot of lift and the mount could be ripped out of whatever you attached it to. Right now, it is at least deeply rooted into the ground. Holding the mount at 90 degree angles would require incredible strength. And I don’t think you can get away with just a small shaft, the diameter of the rocket.
All this focus on the super heavy launch pad is fine, and necessary, but Starship itself puts out a significant amount of thrust. This is surely going to force the construction of some significant launch platform on the moon and Mars? In the lower g environment, the debris will be ejected over a very wide area, potentially wiping out anything in the vicinity.
The return flight from the moon will not involve the same stage 1 rocket. Leaving that surface is much easier anyway due to the much lower gravity.
Have you forgotten that the boosterless spacecraft has already succesfully launched and landed without any problems related to debris ejecta?
Still think EM-assisted launch is rhe way.
Maybe they should just slingshot the rocket into the air as the engines are ignited. Can’t be hard, right?
Is it possible to allow a person a front row seat strapped to the nose of the vessel? Asking for a friend who wants to get to space and is frighteningly willing to die trying.
What about the air temperature on Mars ,isn’t it very cold ,would that help with the launch from the surface of Mars ?
That’s why we need ET help to design a new propulsion system to lift off heavy body to space. Rocket system is not suitable for this feat. Moreover to fly a longer distant to another system galaxy, were really need their expertise….please ET…help us.. please
Pic reminds me of some random corner of Bakhmut nowadays in Ukraine.
I’m no engineer but why don’t they just use a smaller rocket and build it piece by piece in space and the last of the launches would be to fuel it?
Fail fast. Learn from mistakes and improve.
you can’t make omelette without breaking eggs.
But you will never put the eggs back together either after you scramble them………… Always remember progress doesn’t have to come from detrimentally gained knowledge. Logic can avert the detriments.
I think SpaceX has, by this point, proven which works better: Comprehensive modeling or iterative testing. And it’s iterative testing for the win; They’ve advanced much faster than companies that wouldn’t risk failure at the launch pad.
You can’t ignore the laws of physics either. They are the same in Texas as they are in Florida.
You could see big concrete chunks landing just off the beach in the wide angle drone shots.
There’s also that video of NSF’s mobile video camera rig (a dodge caravan wagon) getting it’s rear top section smashed in by a chunk as well. Though they were parked pretty close to the tank farm, just across the road. That will not buff right out.
Over at the tank farm, there’s also a suspected LOx leak from one of the upright LOx tanks, and several vertical water tanks took some hits deep enough to dent them.
All this sound make this impractical for ubiquity?
Mister big brain, genius superstar cant get 80 year old technology right 🤣🤣🤣
Is that a major typo in the opening sentence to paragraph 2? ‘’will not to build”…
Found out why my idea would not work.
“…With a bell nozzle, you have a minor part of rapidly expanding(+cooling) exhaust touching the broad, actively cooled nozzle – that means little conductive heat transfer, lower temperature gradient, lots of area for coolant plumbing on the outside (or within) the bell, and outer area radiating a lot of heat out (or passing it to air while in atmosphere) besides coolant drawing it away.
In aerospike the pressure (and temperature) of the gas remains very high all along the spike surface, and the sharp tip leaves very little room for cooling systems. You have a lot of extra-hot, very dense gas in contact with the narrow spike that must pass all the coolant and dissipate the heat somehow, not to melt….”
Too much heat.
It sounds like something that might work if you could make a heat block that size out of diamond, or run a cooling system on superfluid helium, but those both also have the problem of being quite expensive and somewhat fragile to maintain, which is suboptimal for the use case.
Also to think the lift off from the proposed new base built will limit the propulsion of the rocket, so do the math.
Is SpaceX paying for the environmental damage and emissions they create with each launch attempt? The true price should be paid.
stfu martin its a drop in the bucket to any other industry
Your point is out touch with reality
Hiw do you suppose they pay for it? Money, that is just silly,
Elon and tesla have contributed more to bettering our use of natural resources and hiw we affect the environment than any other company in the history of the world, that is enough pay back for me, but I am not a liberal tard either.
They’re going to pay twice as much as NASA does…. “2 × 0 = 0”
What’s a ticket cost to get on board ?
You would ride on that rocket. One way ticket.
They should move all the engines to the top. The tank would hang off the engines. This means the whole structure would be more in tension instead of compression(Yes I know the tanks are pressurized but it’s not as strong as the tensile strength of the metal. Not even remotely close). It should be a tube with a upside down sharp catanary arch at the bottom. Maybe even have NO tube at all. Just one big ass catanary and use the whole body of the rocket as a aerospike. I know this sounds weird but it does make sense. The tanks would hang off of the engine ring at the top. The catanary at the bottom would have ribs holding the bottom of the tanks. The ribs would do double duty. When locked in place they would hold the immense weight of the fuel but when empty they would unlock, spread out and become legs. Think, sorta, of an umbrella upside down. There is no huge extra weight because the ribs hold the tanks in shape when locked but are not needed when the tank is close to empty.
The tanks would have liquid oxygen and/or methane, not sure, on the inside would directly touch the skin of the rocket to cool the exhaust. I have a somewhat odd thought that firing down the rocket at a bit of an angle you could get a little bit of a duct effect as it gained speed.
Mars would need less weight so maybe you could keep the rib supports as legs and then not need a launch site at all. Same for the Moon. On Earth you could land on a tower as they plan now.
Something similar is the upper rockets on the Sea Dragon but I’m saying move them almost to the top below the pointed fairing.
The first stage tanks and engines need to be on the bottom so they can be safely jettisoned after the fuel is expended. The fuel tanks need to be above the engines so the fuel pumps work with the direction of acceleration not against it.
Now you’re talking
Sounds like they already had the solution designed, just wanted to get data to demonstrate it was really needed. Massive water cooled steel structure sounds about right. They want something readily replicated on launch pads built in Shipyards for ocean platforms – which fits that description well but can be assembled and tested in Texas and Florida first. SpaceX is good at working with steel.
Musk does realize that if the older less powerful shuttles were to launch with out water dampening the sound… Just the sound would crumble the launch pad just like that…. He does spray water under it as it launches right… Cause that’s why they do that. Not the power of the engines… It’s the sound and vibrations created… You’d also possibly die if to close and exposed to the sound of it.
See the article above.
Sadly the pad will need to be demolished and totally rebuilt which will take some time.
Inside information? I shouldn’t think so, from looking at the damage.
The mount itself looks intact, and is absurdly strong. You could place temporary supports between the permanent ones, to take the load off, and rebuild the foundations under the permanent support legs.
No different except in scale from moving a house.
Now that the stool legs are exposed…tunnels between the legs poured…have Merlin engines at the mouths to induce a “low” pressure zone below the pad to evacuate SuperHeavy exhaust products.
Have the next stack be parallel stages, ALS/NLS style. Two cores are going to have to kiss and swap propellant for refueling anyway right?
Side by side pads…SuperHeavy stretched and has bullet nose…Starship like a giant Polyus.
Put Starship/SuperHeavy and the pad both in a Stryker Frames.
Elon talks to NorGrum about using solids with nozzles at near 45 degree angles to get SuperHeavy off the (now wider) pad more quickly.
Strap-on/Stryker Frame cage remains with SuperHeavy to brace it until AFTER Starship is going.
Stryker frame falls away and SuperHeavy core caught as per normal.
NASA already has a solution for the problem being seen… The sound and vibrations from it.
Imagine the pad at launch as being in the worst earthquake on record times 3… Without sound dampening water the thrust will tear that pad apart, it’s basically already under the same effect as when the ground looks like liquid moving around in a really bad quake…..
What if they towed and forklifted several thousand tons of ice underneath the rocket and shaped it to create a type of temporary flame diverter. It would only have to last for the few seconds it takes for the engines to clear the pad. They certainly have enough liquid chilled everything on site to make all the ice humanly conceivable. I know it would have to be precisely shaped not to RUD into a hail storm, but that’s where Elons new A.I. company comes in. It can spend its first weeks running thermodynamics simulations on all those engines blasting fire down machine learning generated ice tunnels.
Or maybe just a big metal plate.
That could go very badly.
When ice is suddenly exposed to extremely high temperatures, such as that of a rocket engine, it can explode. The exact mechanism isn’t well understood, but there is a very cool episode of Mythbusters where they set off thermite on top of ice and….BOOM! The ice violently explodes. Definitely not something you want underneath your expensive rocket. A traditional steel/concrete flame deflector with water cooling is probably best.
It takes a lot less energy to phase change ice to water than water to steam. Just getting more water there achieves more. Ice would melt far faster than one might guess under the gaze of those engines.
I figure some kind of armor plate is needed. Didn’t think about the need for cooling. I wonder if the water cooling can be both under and over the armor plate. There’s a lot of capacity in latent heat that could be carried off with a water deluge system pouring over the armor plate.
There won’t be a giant 33-engine first stage when launching from Mars.
Good point! Maybe it’s really a one way ego trip, and EVERYONE from the astronauts to the ground control knows no one is coming back hence no need for powerful engines on th capsule. It’s also been made into several horrible Hollywood movies.
…no, Mars has 1/3rd Earth’s gravity and no atmosphere to speak of. It’s much easier to take off from there, by quite a long way.
Yes, this is the key concept to remember. Starship (Stage 2) can land just fine in concrete without damaging its pad, so that should be good enough for Mars. Superheavy will be restricted to Earth, so it needs further ground support not to damage the ground as it takes off.
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