Prototype SpaceX Starship Shoots Super Hot Debris and Causes Fire

Brush fires appeared shortly after the Starship's static fire test on Thursday, September 8, 2022.

Brush fires appeared shortly after Starship’s static fire test on Thursday, September 8, 2022.
Screenshot: NASASpaceflight

SpaceX conducted a static fire test of a prototype Starship rocket on Thursday, which involved all six raptor engines. The eight seconds test seemed to go well, except for the problematic bushfire that followed.

Starship prototype 24 is currently being tested at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX is preparing the upper stage for an upcoming orbital test of the fully integrated Starship system. During yesterday’s static fire test shortly after 5.30 pm Etthe made six Raptor engines a monstrous roar and kicked up an enormous amount of smoke and dust. After the material settled and the Starship launch pad reappearedIt became clear that several lawns in the area were on fire.

SpaceX Static fires Starship 24 and grass fire follows, plus Booster 7 Spin Prime

Video of the scene, if captured by NASASpaceflight (the static fire test starts at 5:35:00 in the video) above), showed an unusually large fire near the missile, and wider angles revealed brush fires several hundred yards from the stand. Superheated debris from the test even reached a SpaceX container and set its contents on fire. according to to Tesla. The fires, which hit a protected habitat, required firefighters to enter to fight the flames.

A zoomed-in view of fires at the test bench.

A zoomed-in view of fires at the test bench.
Screenshot: NASASpaceflight

An earlier test on August 9 saw only two of the prototype 24 . Raptor engines into action, in what was a subdued version of Thursday’s full test. During the previous day, on August 8, SpaceX conducted a limited static burn test of a Starship booster prototype, bringing the company closer to an actual orbital launch. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sees the fully stacked two-stage Starship rocket as a platform for delivering people and cargo to orbit, the moon and Mars.

Teslarati estimates Thursday’s six-motor test produced 1,380 tons of thrust, the most ever done for a test on Starbase. And at eight secondsit was also one of the longest static fire tests conducted on a Starship test bench.

However, with great power comes great responsibility and SpaceX is not up to the challenge; the company, as Teslarati points out, is clearly not taking the necessary precautions to prevent fires near the launch pad and instead relies on an inadequate spray head and high temperature concrete:

Most likely, eight long seconds of blast furnace conditions melted the top layer of the surrounding concrete and sent a hailstorm of tiny superheated spheres blasting in almost all directions. Indeed, in almost every direction there was something that could easily burn, a fire started. In several locations to the south and west, the undergrowth caught fire and began to burn unusually aggressively, quickly growing into walls of flame that swept across the property. In the east, the debris even reached a SpaceX container, the contents of which easily caught fire and burned for hours.

Finally, around [10:00 p.m. EDT], firefighters were able to approach the safe launch pad and missile, but the main fire had already spread south, out of range. Instead, they started controlled burns near SpaceX’s roadblock, hoping to remove the brush and prevent the fire (however unlikely) from spreading to SpaceX’s Starbase factory and Boca’s homes and residents. Chica Village.

More serious precautions, such as a flood control system, would probably prevent this sort of thing. Instead, the tremendous force, heat, and burn time destroy the concrete beneath the rocket, resulting in the dispersion of superheated debris.

The fire brigade had no problem extinguishing the flames, but the fires did affect an ecologically sensitive area that is home to threatened wild animals. In June, the Federal Aviation Administration completed its environmental assessment of the proposed SpaceX site expansion at Boca Chica, saying the company can continue with its plans, but it must come to an end 75 environmental mitigation measures.

Of these actions, SpaceX must implement wildfire prevention measures and also use spray water to suppress dust and air pollution. Given what happened yesterday, these apparently remain unchecked items on SpaceX’s to-do list. Not cool, Elon. Not cool.

More: SpaceX signs deal with NASA to provide 5 more crewed trips to the ISS.


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