Elon Musk Continues To Produce Uncontrolled Fires Of Varying Size

The majority of Elon Musk news has centred around his purchase of the social media platform Twitter, but our erstwhile billionaire genius didn’t want to let Hitler’s birthday (April 20th) pass by without marking the occasion. SpaceX would perform a test launch of Starship Super Heavy, the largest rocket ever built.

Things were going well… until they weren’t, which ended up being mere moments after liftoff. The rocket quickly became unstable and exploded in the air. The official SpaceX Twitter account described this event as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly,” employing a euphemism I was George Carlin was still alive to appreciate.

The immediate reaction from SpaceX was essentially “this is bad, but we have a lot of data to improve the process.” That’s obviously damage control, the sort of thing you both expect and yet still roll your eyes at. If the only issue at hand was an expensive, blown-up rocket, that might have passed muster.

However, as more details emerge, it appears that the explosion has environmental concerns as well. A significant amount of ash and sand-like debris was scattered as far as six miles from the launchpad, according to reporting from CNBC.com. It is currently unknown what if any health effects the debris may have on people or the land / water.

Of particular interest is the destruction of the launchpad, something that has apparently been an ongoing concern for years. Musk publicly made the decision to use a concrete launchpad with no trenches for cooling and thrust diversion in 2020, which meant that three years of use eventually eroded the launchpad such that it exploded, causing concrete debris to disable 8 of the ship’s 33 engines. A reusable rocket isn’t such a great idea if the launchpad doesn’t survive…

As a result of this catastrophic failure, a series of reviews by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will be required before SpaceX can attempt another launch of any sort. It is unlikely that SpaceX will encounter significant regulatory hurdles, which is another issue unto itself. Whether this process takes weeks, months of years is uncertain; we’ll just have to see how toothless the FAA is.

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