The new generation of heavy launch vehicle "Starship" and the spacecraft integration system of the US Space Exploration Technology Corporation were tested on the 20th local time, but the rocket exploded shortly after liftoff. According to an AFP report on the 24th, the launch caused serious damage to the launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, USA, and the repair work is expected to take months, which may delay the follow-up launch plan and drag down NASA's rocket development progress for lunar missions.
Elon Musk, founder, CEO and chief engineer of Space Exploration Technologies, said before Starship's first test launch that as long as Starship can be lifted off without destroying the launch pad, it is "a victory." However, the engineers involved in the development may have underestimated the damage to the launch pad caused by the dozens of engines on the rocket.
SpaceX video shows a pile of debris being blown up to the Gulf of Mexico, 420 meters away, during the Starship's takeoff.
Photos of the launch site show the launch tower standing after the Starship took off, while the launch pad was damaged. Images that appeared on social media showed a huge pit under the launch pad. The New York Times reported with relevant sources that the pit was about 7.6 meters deep.
Musk admitted on Twitter on the 22nd: "The force of the engine accelerating may have destroyed the concrete (structure), not just eroded it." ”
Olivier Dweck, a professor of aerospace and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the extent of the launch pad damage was "probably more serious than anyone thought." Starship's launch pad does not use a flush cooling system to cool and absorb shock and sound waves like other large rocket launch pads, he said, nor does it have a guide trough to channel hot exhaust gases, and its "main damage is located below, where the flames hit the ground."
After the test flight, Musk said that the company had previously built "a huge water-cooled steel plate under the launch base", but it was not completed as scheduled, and engineers miscalculated that without this steel plate, the launch pad could withstand the impact of the Starship's takeoff.
However, some experts believe that "Starship is so large that it takes a long time to take off" and that during this period, the heat generated by the 33 engines "may melt steel". Even if this thermal energy problem can be solved, the shock wave problem cannot be completely solved.
Philip Metzger, a professor at the University of Central Florida and a scientist who has studied launch pads for NASA, said that designing rocket launch pads is no less complicated than developing rockets.
According to the website of Space Exploration Technology, Starship is the world's largest and most powerful launch vehicle so far, with a total height of about 120 meters and a diameter of about 9 meters. The rocket consists of two parts, at the bottom is a first-stage "super heavy" booster, about 69 meters high, equipped with 33 "Raptor" engines; At the top is the spacecraft cabin, about 50 meters high and reusable.
(Source: CCTV News Client)