Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas — SpaceX started the cleanup and repair process at the Orbital Launch Site earlier this week. The launch site received damages as a result of the 1st Starship launch last month.
The Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) or the launch pad had endured most of the damage caused by the massive thrust of the Super Heavy rocket booster engines.
Starship 1st stage aka Super Heavy booster has 33 Raptor engines at its base to lift the massive 120 meters (390 feet) spacecraft. At liftoff during the 1st Starship launch, 3 engines failed to fire. So, the orbital launch test was conducted with only 30 Raptor engines.
The thrust of a single 2nd-generation Raptor engine stands at 230 tons (~500,000 pound-force/lbf) at sea level.
The combined thrust of 6,900 tons or 15 million lbf dug a hole at the base of the Starship launch pad (OLM /Stage 0). The following picture of this pit was shared on Twitter by the SpaceX community.
During a Twitter Space audio discussion on Sunday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the damage to the Starship launch pad is insignificant. “I’m glad to report that the pad damage is actually quite small and it looks like it can be repaired quickly,” he said.
Next Starship Flight Schedule
In the same Twitter Space talk, Elon Musk gave a tentative timeline for the repairs to the OLM and the launch site as well.
“I think from a rocket standpoint and Pad standpoint, we are probably ready to launch in six to eight weeks,” Musk said.
“The longest lead item on that is probably re-qualification of the flight termination system (FTS), because we did initiate the flight termination system but it was not enough to […], it took way too long to rupture the tanks,” Musk explained the main cause of the delay for next Starship flight.
During the 2024 Proposed NASA Budget Hearing last week, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson also said that SpaceX has informed him that it will take at least 2 months to prepare for the next Starship launch.
“It blew a hole in that launch pad. So I have an ask, so I report to you as of today that SpaceX is still saying that they think it will take at least two months to rebuild the launch pad and concurrently about two months to have their second vehicle ready to launch,” Bill Nelson said during his speech.
In the latest videos by NASASpaceflight.com, we can observe that SpaceX has started repair and rebuilding work at the launch site and we can expect the next Starship flight toward the end of June or the start of July.
The first Starship launch attempt ended in a rapid unscheduled disassembly (RUD). But Elon Musk and SpaceX say that they have garnered a ton of data from this experience and it will be useful for future Starship flights.
SpaceX has also started repairing the LOX tanks which were damaged during the Starship liftoff during the 1st launch.
“SpaceX begins repairing the LOX tanks after being damaged during Starship’s full stack test flight. These tanks were seen venting uncontrollably after chunks of concrete impacted them at liftoff,” NSF wrote in the description of the video (watch below).
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