SpaceX’s Starship launch pad appears to have passed its second test by fire.
The platform, at SpaceX’s Starbase site in South Texas, was battered April 20, in the first-ever test flight of a fully stacked Starship vehicle. The 33 Raptor engines on the massive rocket’s first stage blasted a large crater beneath the platform that day, sending chunks of concrete and other debris high into the Texas sky.
SpaceX installed a water-spewing steel plate under the platform following the first flight, to prevent such damage from happening again. The new plate was tested on Saturday, November 18, when Starship took off for the second time – and it did its job well, according to the company’s founder and CEO Elon Musk.
“Just inspected the Starship launch pad and it is in great condition! No renovation needed to the water-cooled steel plate for the next launch. Congratulations to the @SpaceX team and contractors for engineering and building such a robust system so quickly!” Musk said on Sunday, November 19, in a post on (formerly known as Twitter).
Related: Test launch of SpaceX’s second spacecraft looks stunning in these stunning photos and videos
SpaceX is developing Starship to help humanity expand its footprint on the Moon and Mars. The nearly 400-foot-tall (122-meter) rocket-spacecraft assembly is designed to be fully and quickly reusable, a key advancement that Musk says will make such ambitious feats of exploration feasible.
The two Starship test flights aimed to send the upper stage spacecraft most of the time around Earth; The landing was targeted over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, following a flight eastward across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Neither flight managed to achieve this goal, although number two achieved significant milestones.
Saturday’s flight lasted twice as long as April’s, for example: eight minutes compared to four minutes. And the Starship’s two stages successfully separated on Saturday, a major success the vehicle failed to achieve on its first mission.
Further progress could be made soon: the Starship vehicle that will make the third test flight should be technically ready to take off in just three to four weeks, Musk said over the weekend.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see another Starship mission in 2023. SpaceX must still obtain a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is overseeing an investigation into Saturday’s flight.
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