San Francisco, Nov 21 (IANS): The recent test flight of SpaceX’s Starship did not damage the launch pad, said CEO Elon Musk.
The Starship successfully lifted off under the power of all 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy Booster and made it through stage separation on Saturday evening.
The booster, however, experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly shortly after stage separation while Starship's engines fired for several minutes on its way to space, SpaceX said.
During the first test flight in April, the integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket blew apart the launchpad shortly after the launch. It spewed debris up to 20 acres outside the area that federal regulators initially expected.
To prevent this, one of the “several upgrades” that SpaceX did was to install a water-spewing steel plate beneath the pad. Musk said the plate prevented damage to the Starship launch pad so that no additional changes are needed to it before the next launch.
"Just inspected the Starship launch pad and it is in great condition! No refurbishment needed to the water-cooled steel plate for next launch,” Musk said in a post on X.
The launch of Starship has also again triggered an investigation by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the booster explosion.
“A mishap occurred during the @SpaceX Starship OFT-2 launch from Boca Chica, Texas, on Saturday, November 18. The anomaly resulted in a loss of the vehicle. No injuries or public property damage have been reported,” the aviation regulator posted on X.
"The FAA will oversee the @SpaceX-led mishap investigation to ensure SpaceX complies with its FAA-approved mishap investigation plan and other regulatory requirements," the agency added.
Meanwhile, the billionaire also said that the next flight of Starship is likely before Christmas.
“Starship Flight 3 hardware should be ready to fly in three to four weeks. There are three ships in final production in the high bay (as can be seen from the highway),” Musk said.
Starship is the tallest rocket ever assembled. The fully-integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket stands 394 feet tall, and is about 30 feet in diameter.
SpaceX aims to use Starship as a fully reusable transportation system to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.