SpaceX is already testing technology that could reinforce the ground beneath the orbital launch pad of its giant Starship rocket, according to a new video.
This pavement, SpaceX‘s Starbase in South Texas, was beaten in the first-ever test flight of a fully-stacked aircraft Spatialship vehicle – the most powerful rocket ever built – on April 20.
The immense power of Starship’s 33 first-stage Raptor engines dug a crater under the slab that day, sending chunks of shattered concrete flying through the dusty air.
Related: Relive the explosive launch of SpaceX’s 1st spacecraft in incredible photos
The day after the highly anticipated test flight, Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX was already working on a way to prevent or minimize this damage – “a massive water-cooled steel plate to go under the launch pad.”
Those efforts had begun three months prior, the billionaire entrepreneur said. The plate system wasn’t ready in time for the April 20 launch, but SpaceX went ahead with it anyway, assuming the concrete beneath Starship would survive a single liftoff. That turned out not to be the case, as we saw on April 20.
Sheet steel work has continued apace since then. Indeed, the company recently tested a prototype plate against the power of a single Raptor.
SpaceX tweeted a 20-second video of the test on Friday, May 19. When the steam dissipates at the end of the clip, the plate still seems to be in one piece – which is no small feat, considering what it was up against.
“A hell of a plasma beam!” » Musk tweeted on Fridayin response to SpaceX’s tweet.
One hell of a plasma beam! https://t.co/y8uOTeFlsDMay 19, 2023
SpaceX is developing Starship to launch astronauts to the Moon and Mars, and to take over most, if not all, of the company’s spaceflight portfolio down the road. NASA believes in the vehicle, choosing it as the first crewed lunar lander for his Artemis lunar program.
THE April 20 test flight was intended to send the Starship upper stage most of the way around Earth, culminating in a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. This did not happen, however; the two stages of the vehicle did not separate as expected, and SpaceX ordered the prototype to self-destruct over the Gulf of Mexico minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX is building several Starship vehicles at Starbase and aims to launch the next one soon. Musk recently said the Starship’s next flight could take place in a month or two – provided the steel plate system is ready by then and the US Federal Aviation Administration gives the green light to the mission.