SpaceX's violent Starship explosion pushes FAA to ground the program

SpaceX launched the largest and most powerful launch vehicle on April 20, and mid-flight blew the rocket up after it failed to separate.

2 minutes & 19 seconds read time

SpaceX launched its Starship launch vehicle on April 20, and after nearly four minutes of flight, the rocket was intentionally blown up, causing debris to scatter much further than initially anticipated.

SpaceX's violent Starship explosion pushes FAA to ground the program 7485

SpaceX has been developing Starship for quite some time, and on April 20, the company conducted its very first orbital test flight of the nearly 400-foot-tall rocket. Starship is slated to be the transportation method astronauts will take to the surface of the Red Planet, and its first orbital test flight was a monumental milestone on the long road to achieving that goal. SpaceX's next-generation rocket featured 33 Raptor engines, which generated a whopping 16.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

Prior to the orbital test flight SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a Twitter Spaces held on April 16 that there was a real risk of Starship exploding. In fact, Musk said it was more likely that it would explode rather than reach orbit. Musk was right. Just four minutes after achieving flight, SpaceX was forced to initiate its mission termination process, or what officials called a "rapid unscheduled disassembly". The rocket's first stage, or booster called Super Heavy failed to separate from its second stage, Starship, which caused the rocket to tumble and lose altitude.

The launch clearly didn't go to plan, but perhaps in more ways than what is initially obvious. SpaceX didn't anticipate its nearly 400-foot rocket would absolutely obliterate its launch pad or how much particulate matter (pollution) would be generated from exploding Starship. This pollution would then rain down on residents and habitats in an area much larger than what SpaceX predicted. Both of these problems have caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA has grounded SpaceX's Starship program until it concludes its "mishap investigation". Notably, for SpaceX to launch Starship, it needed to be given a license from environmental, flight, and other regulatory bodies. In the FAA's environmental assessment of Starship, SpaceX estimated debris would fall within a limited 700-acre area, or one-square mile around the launch site. However, Starship's explosion resulted in particulate matter and dust raining down on homes, businesses, and schools in Port Isabel, a city six miles from the launch pad. Additionally, reports state windows were shattered from the rocket's explosion.

CNBC reports that it's unknown if this particulate matter or soot is dangerous to touch or inhale. Furthermore, there are concerns about the impact the pollution will have on the environment, in particular, soil health in the region. If you are interested in watching SpaceX's Starship launch and explode in crystal clear video, check out the below link.

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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