SpaceX’s Starship megarocket was willfully launched on April 20 without the aid of a flame diverter or water deluge system, severely damaging the launch pad and sending dust and debris hurtling towards the surrounding surroundings. The business is creating a potent deluge system that underwent its first test this week in an effort to stop a repeat.
A Small Test
On July 17, at 2:22 PM ET, a small test was conducted at SpaceX’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica, Texas. Thousands of litres of water are shown violently blasting up from the orbital launch mount (OLM) in a NASASpaceflight video. Unexpectedly loud water blasts were audible as they rose.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) from June 2022, the system might eventually spray as much as 350,000 gallons of water during Starship ignition and liftoff. SpaceX’s deluge system uses water to absorb energy from the rocket as it lifts off, with the majority of the water expected to be “vaporized by the heat of the rocket engines,” the FAA said. This is in contrast to NASA’s water deluge system, which pumps out 450,000 gallons of water to suppress the excessive noise produced during launches of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
Only Elon knows the Real Answer!
It is blatantly obvious that SpaceX should have employed a water deluge system in April, and not just because we have the benefit of hindsight. With roughly 17 million pounds of thrust during its first launch, Starship’s 33 Raptor engines burnt the region directly beneath the OLM, leaving behind a 25-foot-deep crater and dispersing debris and dust over a large area. Dust “landed on everything” at the adjacent Port Isabel, according to a report from The New York Times at the time. Due to the FAA’s approval of the launch, a lawsuit has been filed against it, and Starship is still grounded while the investigation is ongoing.
The Elon Musk-led company, the most valuable private company in the US, likely decided to fly Starship without the benefit of launch suppression infrastructure because it had two lucrative NASA contracts to use Starship as a lunar lander for the Artemis 3 and 4 missions, either because it downplayed the risks or because it was under extreme time pressure. But that’s all conjecture—only Elon knows the real answer. However, it is evident that the business was at least thinking about the notion.