SpaceX’s Starship launch pad has successfully passed its second trial by fire.
The pad, located at SpaceX‘s Starbase site in South Texas, endured a significant impact on April 20 during the first-ever test flight of a fully stacked Starship vehicle. The launch resulted in the rocket’s 33 first-stage Raptor engines blasting out a big crater beneath the pad, causing debris to fly into the Texas sky.
Following this incident, SpaceX implemented a water-spewing steel plate to prevent such damage from reoccurring. The effectiveness of this new plate was tested on Saturday (Nov. 18) when Starship lifted off for the second time ever, and it proved to be successful, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, and CEO.
“Just inspected the Starship launch pad and it is in great condition! No refurbishment needed to the water-cooled steel plate for next launch. Congrats to @SpaceX team & contractors for engineering & building such a robust system so rapidly!” Musk stated on Sunday (Nov. 19) in a post on X.
Both test flights aimed to send the upper-stage spacecraft most of the way around Earth; however, achieving this goal proved challenging for both flights. Nevertheless, the second test flight achieved significant milestones, lasting twice as long as the first flight and successfully separating its two stages.
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More progress could be coming soon: The Starship vehicle that will conduct the third test flight should be ready, from a technical standpoint, to lift 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, however. SpaceX still needs to secure a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is overseeing an investigation into Saturday’s flight.