‘Normally, major launch sites are engineered with a trench or water system that helps to divert the rocket’s flame away from the ground and to dampen the impact […]“They didn’t do that… It appears they just went ahead and just launched this thing.”’ https://t.co/d0Qq3KmKzX
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) April 21, 2023
… Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Starship exploded minutes after liftoff and before reaching orbit. Near the launch site, the residents of Port Isabel, known for its towering lighthouse and less than 10 miles from the border with Mexico, were left to deal with the mess…
Louis Balderas, the founder of LabPadre, which films SpaceX’s launches, said that while it was common to see some debris, smoke and dust, the impact of Thursday’s liftoff was unlike anything he had ever seen.
“There were bowling ball-sized pieces of concrete that came flying out of the launchpad area,” Mr. Balderas said. The blast, he added, had created a crater that he estimated was around 25 feet deep…
Eric Roesch, an expert in environmental compliance and risk assessment who has been tracking SpaceX’s rocket launches, said in an interview that he and others had long warned of the environmental risks to the surrounding region. But without a chemical analysis of the dust and debris, he added, it was difficult to say whether or not they were harmful to human health.
But, Mr. Roesch said, “the presence of that dust kind of indicates to me that the impact modeling was inadequate, because this was not really disclosed as a possible impact.”…
ah I’m sorry I’m getting word now in my earpiece that hydrazines are in fact extremely toxic
— kilgore trout, lawsuit time (@KT_So_It_Goes) April 20, 2023
today's blast happened half a mile from a roost that contained 4% of the entire living earth population of federally protected Piping Plovers
are they alive, right now? who cares, because MARS OR WHATEVER pic.twitter.com/oEChkdstRu
— some native (@heyMAKWA) April 20, 2023
— Joe Wrinn (@WrinnJoe) April 21, 2023
wait a minute, you’re telling me that a company owned by elon musk lied, distorted, and misrepresented itself, with catastrophic external consequences that they won’t have to face? i am totally shocked, it’s not like all of his other companies do this constantly.
— GOLIKEHELLMACHINE (@golikehellmachi) April 22, 2023
SpaceX built a slightly bigger rocket still, and on its first launch, six of its engines failed before it it exploded.
Elonistas call the explosion a remarkable success because of all the data collected.
The framing of these programs needs to align better. 2/2
— Patrick S. Tomlinson (@stealthygeek) April 22, 2023
This will all be worth it if Musk is the first person to man his Mars rocket.
The Moar You Know
Methane/oxygen. No hydrazines. Which is good because that shit is evil.
Elonistas! Anyway, countdown until he says something arrogant and dismissive of the people (& wildlife) whose lives he’s endangered. 3,2,1,,,,,
Oh gawd…. you are soooooo woke. Who cares about a few seabirds, there ‘s millions more where those came from.
I’m a little skeptical of the criticism of the rocket blowing up, but the launchpad issues seem very bad.
“Move fast, break [other people’s] things.”
I dunno when we’re gonna get over this societal acceptance — even glorification — of WWE-type behavior, but it really is kinda not so good for us …
@craigie: It would have been worth it if he’d been on this rocket.
@Baud: As I said the other day, space is hard.
Irrespective of whatever Musk does or says, SLS is a travesty. It’s not really NASA’s fault, or at least not primarily their fault. It’s Congress, and most notably now-retired Senator Shelby, that wrote into law a requirement that SLS reuse Shuttle parts and hence Shuttle contractors, in ways that are even more expensive and hard to work with than the original Shuttle program. Yes, it flew, but at a cost of tens of billions of dollars in development money and well north of a billion per flight on top of that.
Going to Mars is not as easy retweeting the latest
turdtweet from Catturd.
It’s not going to matter because a 30-engine rocket is a failure of design.
Bet it’s in Texas not Florida because we have environmental standards. Texas tends to not, plus not enforce.
Not sure why, but Floridians like environmental rules. I think it has to do with our water supply being so close to the surface. Easy to pollute our aquifer. Plus tourism. Also we are a big agriculture and fishing state even though most people don’t seem to know that.
We have had some pollution issues from companies but I suspect a new to the state company would find it harder to get away with it and it is against the rules.
@The Moar You Know: Perhaps in maneuvering thrusters, but to your point not used on launch.
Pics of the uh…degraded launchpad indicate a complete rebuild.
I thought they had done static tests of this thing, but maybe horizontal. There was that one which just blew the hell up sitting on the ground, after some fueling test or other. Maybe that was Spaceship sans booster. I can’t keep track.
So far Space X is a rather successful freight hauler.
Maybe SpaceX has been lucky. You can ignore the ‘Do Not Press The Big Red Button’ sign for only so long.
Musk needs to be sanctioned and removed as CEO, Space X needs to be brought under control of NASA.
A friend who was working at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon once told me that software for the space shuttle cost ten times as much to develop as equivalent commercial software, because of the procedures in place to ensure correctness, safety, etc.
When you set out to spend an order of magnitude less than known costs for a successful operation, expect failures.
That’s on the science and engineering side. On the social side, this is unconscionable. I can imagine that some years from now we might see an uptick in lung diseases in this town, but there will be no way for a specific patient to pin their condition on this specific event, even if it were the true cause.
Aside from failures on the part of SpaceX to minimize the impact on surrounding areas, why didn’t the FAA and/or NASA and/or whatever appropriate agency verify readiness of the launch site?
Quite possibly a factor, but from what I’ve read, it’s mostly because Musk wanted to shuffle personnel between the launch site and his own base in California on short notice. Florida was just too far away for that, and he’s a hands-on manager, when it comes to interfering with the people who might know what they’re doing.
Someone much wiser than me said, “Before we go about terraforming Mars, how about we don’t un-terraform Earth?”
This is Texas, land of no regulations. See large number of chemical and other toxic plant explosions.
@bbleh: The problem of the 21st century …
And you’ve given a hint of why it’s so widespread, with approval of behavior that young teens need to get out of under the guise of “entertainment.” [Grumble grumble]
Hydrazine. Nasty stuff.
Titan II missiles were based in silos around Tucson, Arizona.
Around 1970 (maybe after) I was able to participate in a tour of an operational silo.
Part of the underground complex included showers and eyewash fountains for maintenance crews. Fueling, if I recall correctly, was carried out by maintenance crews in sealed suits that resembled space suits.
When you entered the silo proper on the tour you were issued a gas mask in a satchel. They implied that if there was a fuel leak we’d be in serious trouble anyway, but the gas mask was supposed to make you feel a little better about it.
@Baud: the launchpad thing is the real issue.
And it has been the issue for a long time. People have been highly skeptical of the launchpad from the beginning, and it’s lack of certain features and design for stopping the very thing that happened.
@Michael Bersin: Heh. Radiation badges. Do they still bother?
@Gvg: I mean. Texas is the place that lets a chemical plant be in the same neighborhood as a school and houses so that when something goes wrong and it goes bo…. Who ami kidding that’ll never happen… hold on I’ve just been handed a piece of paper…
@trollhattan: they did a 30 engine static fire test at something like 40% power for like 5-10 seconds or something. And they had some damage but nothing like this excavation.
Also, the oxidizer was Nitrogen Tetroxide. Really nasty stuff.
I’m seeing stuff where they’re pointing out that the debris kicked up by the rocket hurtled into the rocket, knocking out a number of the engines.
A self own in more ways than one….
Will the little bitch ban them from Twitter first though?
We’re two days into the “hide the legacy checkmarks” side quest, and Twitter is now sticking blue checks on large accounts that mock blue checks. As a punishment. They’ve been locked in a battle with dril for hours now (he changes his display name, which resets the mark, but Twitter is monitoring the account and immediately puts the check back on) and it has dragged in unwilling verifications for Chrissy Tiegan (model) and Daniel Dale (fact checker).
Adam L Silverman
You’ll want to read this entire thread. The author is an aerospace engineer. He explains not only the launchpad problems, but also, in response to questions, why the design of the rocket itself is flawed. Largely because it is based on a design and engineering failure of a rocket that the Soviet’s tried and had to abandon.
@Edmund dantes: Unlike the booster, the pad is not reusable. This creates a liftoff-or-else situation.
I wonder if Space-X can even build a launch pad that could accommodate that booster. It may be too damn big.
@Michael Bersin: Whew! I remember just enough chemistry to suspect that might be awfully corrosive.
Looking at the demographic summary for Port Isabel, Texas, I see a possible textbook case for an environmental justice session.
“Nonsense! Now we know a thousand ways in which a rocket fails!” –Moron Timeline Thomas Edison
The warhead was interesting. The operational crew members would specifically not acknowledge it was a nuke. As if any of us were really wondering.
The operational (alert) crew members carried sidearms.
I stood on a temporary maintenance platform (metal grate, folded down from the wall, by an access door) near the bottom of the silo, next to the engines. The crew member placed his hands against the side of the missile body and gave it a shove to demonstrate the spring mounts.
If I recall correctly, water at the bottom of the silo was part of the launch process. Since the silos were effectively single use I’m assuming it was for vibration and heat attenuation rather than protecting the silo.
Look, all snark aside, we’ve been launching rockets for, what close to 80 years now? And yet the people supposedly isolated from Cat Turd II’s best friend’s shitty decision making can’t do BASIC shit to keep the damn launchpad from turning into a projectile?
Whatever the fate of Starship, that launch tower (and probably Boca Chica as a launch site) is/are fucked. It needs a flame trench (and deluge/noise suppression system), but you can’t dig one there; it’s three feet above the water table, due to being at the coast. So you have to do like NASA at Canaveral and build a hill.
Which requires tearing down their launch stand and tower. So SpaceX didn’t just blow up Starship, they also blew up their multi-million dollar tower, chopsticks and all.
Now THIS is a fuckin’ launchpad!
Hey kids! Let’s try snd see.
@Citizen_X: Well, they have a head start on the launch pad demolition.
That tower looks pretty funky also. It might have to be scrapped anyway.
I feel badly for the folks who got ‘rained’ on by this stuff, and all I have to offer are three little words:
Bankrupt this corrupt dudebro!!
I was very surprised how long it sat on the pad with the engines running. (No time to look at the video again, but) It seemed to start the engines before zero (as usual), then sat on the pad for a LONG time (5-10s?) before actually crawling up into the sky. That’s a lot of force very close to the ground for a very long time, of course it’s going to kick up a hurricane of dust unless they control it.
If that’s the way the thing is going to run, the EPA, FAA, etc., needs to come down like a ton of bricks on Melon and say that no more launches are allowed until they fix their blast containment issues.
Enough fine dust can be deadly no matter what is in it. I’m sure most here remember the claims that the dust in NYC was no big deal in 2001…
@different-church-lady: Quite the video! So many systems to keep the launchpad safe.
One of the central dogmas of the Cult of Mammon is that failures of capitalism are objectively better than successes by a government agency.
@prostratedragon: Welp, there goes plausible deniability…
The USSR tried a 30 rocket design, but could never get it to work.
We’ve already terraformed the Earth to our liking. Natural habitats and wild animals exist because human civilization allows them to exist.
I just remembered.
One of the issues with making rockets bigger and more powerful is that they become noisier. On the outside, but also on the inside.
Artemis 1 was 136 dB 1 mile from the pad:
Here’s hoping that Melon’s astronauts have good noise-canceling headphones, but their internal organs might want noise canceling stuff too…
It’s easy to ignore real-world constraints that exist for a reason, but there are real-world consequences to Leroy Jenkins-ing that Melon still hasn’t recognized yet.
@Adam L Silverman: Holy… so the takeaway here is that it wasn’t just that the launchpad was destroyed. It’s that because Musk went cheap on the launchpad, that’s the thing that caused the spacecraft itself to fail!
@Another Scott: I think we need to get to work on some Musk-cancelling technology, and quick.
@The Moar You Know: Hydrazine (shudders) – glad to hear it wasn’t THAT.
Maybe this is one of those things better left to government? Not to say that NASA couldn’t learn to do things a little more efficiently, but they have shown that they are attentive to details and able to take responsibility for mistakes.
only 75% of the engines ignited, 25% failed in two clusters, both on the outer edge, about 50 degrees apart from each other, so unequal thrust on the edges, that’s what caused the shakes and early spin.
That’s probably the root cause of the failure.
The fact that the lift off destroyed the Mickey Mouse launch pad and scatter debris across miles, is just “chef’s kiss”.
@Jay: Well, what I was reading was that the debris from the launchpad blowing apart was what damaged the engines.
@Math Guy: Can be easier to, um “incentivize (hate that word)” quality in a government enterprise than a private one, if quality is costly as it is here.
if the failed engines had ignited on the launch pad, then encountered debris, the Starship would have rapidly experienced unplanned disassembly on the launch pad.
That was the key problem the Soviets and many other had. It’s hard enough to get three or four rocket engines to all ignite at exactly the same time, let alone 30. It’s why most ICBM and Ballistic missiles use a single, multi stage system, less chance of failure, less chance of the missile taking an unplanned trajectory.
It’s Texas…I seriously doubt the state will require Elon to do better.
@Jay: For a visual, 0:30 of the linked video shows the engine cluster with several not burning.
On first viewing I thought of an LED traffic light with a bunch of lamps out. This was clearly the STOP light.
YouTube on the Soviet N1 rocket.
The N1 tried using 30 smaller rockets to create the most powerful rocket ever. The Soviets could never get all 30 to fire in the correct sequence. Four launch attempts were tried. All ended in failure and huge explosions.
I have no idea why SpaceX is trying to use a failed rocket design.
An extremely weird thing for a Saturday night. Saddle up!
@gene108: Musk probably told Space-X to use that design.
@trollhattan: Think I’d rather have what he’s having. Seems when this came out, some stations wouldn’t play it for obscenity.
wombat probabilty cloud
@different-church-lady: Nice essay by Mark Sumner on this very topic: A Starship Post-mortem.
@Jay: Hm…I’m thinking that even if blast debris didn’t damage Starship THIS time, isn’t there a change it could damage the craft another time, given Musk’s decision not to channel the blast or limit damage?
if some or most of the engines ignite and make thrust, the debris goes away. It’s not like a jet engine where an intake can swallow debris, or a hair dryer set on suck, not blow, : )
She is washing the bigger dog today🤗🤗🤗
I love these videos😍
FAA was off base in rushing to grant certification. Certainly not without a thorough inspection and report on the pad and immediate surroundings.
According to Dr. Phil Metzger (formerly of NASA) in this Twitter thread, the water is entirely to dissipate acoustic energy (the initial shockwave from the rockets igniting and the steadier noise afterward) and prevent it from damaging the rocket. The flame trench is to dissipate heat.
This launchpad was apparently a steel plate with no flame trench or water system, which they apparently thought the rocket could handle. Dr. Phil doesn’t seem as down on it as t would expect, but it seems dumb to me. You get a cheaper and simpler launchpad, but you lose payload capacity by designing the rocket to stand up to the extra vibration and stress.
Father and son sharing Star Wars🤗🤗😍😍
@gene108: Ah, yes, the N1. The Soviet Union’s largest and most expensive firework. So embarrassing they kept the failures a secret for decades.
@wombat probabilty cloud: Thanks much!
@wombat probabilty cloud: Indeed.
Thanks for the pointer.
As it’s a guy, shouldn’t it be Yip Roc Himesy?
@gene108: Falcon Heavy is 27 engines, and works.
@Jay: Then there’s the 65,000-rocket version, as analyzed by Randall Munroe of XKCD. Money quote: “A 30-stage rocket is, to put it lightly, an engineering nightmare.”
He overrode his Tesla engineers when they told him he couldn’t build a fully automated assembly line, which resulted in cost overruns and months-long production delays.
He overrode his Tesla engineers when they told him they needed the radar sensors in order to develop his autopilot system, leaving him a system that uses cameras only, something that no one else in this space is doing. As a result, his autopilot dream continues to recede farther and farther away.
He overrode his Twitter engineers on … well, pretty much everything, which resulted in a platform that is increasingly unstable, with massive increases in hate speech, trolling, spams, and scams, which is also resulting in his advertisers dramatically reducing their investments there.
He overrode his SpaceX engineers when they told him he needed flame diverters on the Starship launchpad, which resulted in a destroyed launchpad and very likely contributed to a failed launch.
I’m sensing a pattern here….
Odie Hugh Manatee
This is exactly what I thought when I heard of the pad damage. That area under the rocket was one huge, hot blender with concrete boulders as grinders.
@Odie Hugh Manatee: Maybe, maybe not, given what other people here are saying. But damaging the launch pad seems like a bigger problem, since that Daily Kos article is saying the launchpad is an innovation that allows bigger payload (assembling the rocket there).
@NotMax: Could the earth, let alone those radio censors’ imaginations, have supported that?
Maybe so, but there is also the matter of SpaceX damaging the habitat of the US’ last remaining breeding population of ocelots.
You all know about Project Orion, right? Not even Texas would allow a launch of such a beast from their state. Maybe offshore. :-)
PDF (OCRed so searchable)
Nuclear Pulse Space Vehicle Study – Conceptual Vehicle Designs and Operational Systems (General Atomic (Division of General Dymanics), September 19, 1964)
(http, but site is OK, actually a lot of fun.)
[Tongue in cheek!]
Several media outlets including Reuters are reporting that ~70 Americans were evacuated tonight from the embassy in Khartoum.
Fighting broke out a week ago between the Sudanese Army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, and they are still blasting away at each other.
@Ken: “Essentially, what you’ve created is an unstable pile of gunpowder the size of Central Park”
Mr. Bemused Senior
@different-church-lady: you can always count on Randall Munroe for a chuckle.
Let me suggest a two-word explanation.
The title of the post was pretty much the first thing I thought of.
Adam L Silverman
@gene108: @Geminid: He did. See the thread I linked to in my comment. He purposefully chose not to build a proper launch pad with the necessary mitigation and he purposefully chose to use a failed Soviet design. By purposefully chose I mean he ordered the people who work for him to not build the launch pad with the necessary safety features and to build a rocket based on a failed and abandoned Soviet design.
Failed design? Hey, the
Friedman UnitCybertruck is a hopped up on steroids version of the never produced 1980 Citroën Karin. Video – More pix
Bringing new meaning to the term Breaking News.
Mr. Bemused Senior
Credit where it is due: “move fast and break things” was the Facebook motto. Good thing Meta isn’t building rockets.
@Edmund dantes: My family is from Texas City and Freeport. Both are refinery central. Dad remembered the explosion in 1945, as he was 9. That leveled a huge chunk of the city. I remember the one from 1980, I think. Smaller, but I still recall being woken up by the boom. My older brother survived the explosion in the 2000s at the plant he then worked at. He had just happened to step into a fresh “bombproof” building at the time, luckily.
On the Freeport side, there weren’t the explosions. It was more contaminated water I remember PaPa and Mom talking about. Fun!
I have no idea what Tomlinson is talking about. The two unmanned Saturn V launches were only to high earth orbit and did not go to the moon. Apollo 8 was the first one for that and it had a crew.
I still say the Cybertruck is what would happen if a Delorian and an El Camino had a baby.
@NotMax: I read a story about “the Tesla truck that’s been on the road for 5 years.” A woman had the cab of her Tesla Model 3(?) cut down and had the back of the car turned into truck bed. I realized that Musk could have been turning out nice looking, compact electric pick up trucks all this time.
I think there would have been demand for them. The Cybertruck has racked up a lot of orders, but I wonder if very many people are going to actually want one.
After this debacle — caused by Musk cutting corners — the Environmental Protection Agency should shut down Space-X until the company can prove that it has rectified it’s dysfunctional procedures. There is no excuse for this. (Of course the NTSB should have shut down Tesla years ago for their “Full Self Driving” disasters.). I’m starting to think that the wealthy and powerful don’t face consequences for their behavior.
@Mr. Bemused Senior: That motto was always a lie. Facebook has always been a slightly-glorified only bulletin board.
@Mr. Bemused Senior: That’s the main problem with Musk running SpaceX like a software company doing iterative design – software mistakes don’t typically damage capital during testing. SpaceX is blowing up steel tubes and, now, 32 engines(!) for every test, so it’s not as bad as if, say, NASA tried this with their nearly-production-ready vehicles.
@JeffH: He’s talking about Artemis 1, I think.
@Another Scott: Oh, duh. Of course.
@Tony G: I’ve seen references to the notion that Elon cut corners because he wanted to launch the rocket on April 20th. What is the significance of that date to that narcissistic little boy?
Some of these tweets seem to be blaming the explosion for the environmental damage, but it sounds like all that would have happened even with a successful launch to orbit.
This rocket was not fueled with hydrazine, but I am not sure about maneuvering thrusters and such.
@Geminid: That was inventor/artist/YouTuber Simone Giertz, maybe better known for her hilarious “shitty robot” videos.
… Sounds like the RCS thrusters do not use toxic hypergolic propellants either– they were initially cold gas thrusters but they were trying to move to methane/oxygen for those too.
@Tony G: Weed smoker legend has it in maybe California 420 is the police code for Marijuana kinda like 10-20 is what’s your location. Anyway April 20th is weed day for those that celebrate.
@Geminid: The White House just issued a statement:
Enhanced Voting Techniques
@Tony G: 4-20 is legalize pot day. Musk’s herb obsession is likely while he lives in San Fransisco and not Texas.
Wow. Even for Elon, this is petty. He’s determined to drive news, media figures, and government accounts off of the site, and when they go a Hell of a lot of folks will go with them.
Wondering if his admiration of Russia had anything to do with it? Thinking that for some reason their design was better.
@Redshift: I know Phil a little bit. In fact, I owe him a book chapter that I am a little late on. He knows a lot about how small rock particles interact to resist forces.
@Adam L Silverman:
This is a superb thread. Thank you.
Sister Golden Bear
420 refers to marijuana. The term originated with some high school students in Marin County, north of SF, who regularly got together at 4:20 p.m. after school to smoke it. From there it spread as way to talk about pot without teachers catching on. The students had connections to the Grateful Dead, and were backstage at the Dead’s concerts, where the phrase spread to Deadheads, eventually being discovered by a reporter for “High Times” magazine, which did a story on it, and the phrase went worldwide. April 20th is now an international day celebrated by weed connoisseurs — of which Elon is one.
I’m sensing a pattern here….
He’s the wealthiest man in the world, I’d bet he thinks that makes him the smartest as well. And yet he keeps proving that he’s an idiot. I think the pattern is worse than you are implying.
April 20 is also Adolf H’s birthdate.
@wombat probabilty cloud:
that was a good read, thanks
@Adam L Silverman:
@Kristine: Musk may have looked at the monster Soviet booster and said, “Surely 21st-century engineering and my private sector genius can do what the Soviets could not.”
But what if the root problem with the Soviet booster was top-down decision making?
Late to the thread, but here goes:
Yup. Over 50 years ago. Using Soviet computational and control systems. With hypergolic propellants (UDMH and NTO if memory serves).
Considering the massive advances in automation, real-time data collection and feedback in the intervening decades, there is some reason to think the art and science of multiple-engine control might just have advanced a mite since then.
(Let’s clear up one issue before proceeding: The “launching on 4/20” yammer is just that, yammer. First try was on April 17 – scrubbed due to pressurization issues. Next chance was the 20th. No reason [other than personal animus] to think Lone Skum was hot to launch on the former Schiklgruber’s birthdate – he was just hot to launch, full stop.)
Just FTR, the multi-engine idea wasn’t original with the USSR either: Here is a Von Braun 3-stage-to-orbit concept from 1952 with 51(!) engines in the first stage (and 22 in the second) burning hydrazine and nitric acid. The Soviet N-1 moon rocket (that Christopher David seems to believe, mistakenly, SpaceX got the idea from) was a lot closer to this than is Starship/Superheavy with its methalox propellants.** In fact the Russian Soyuz gets a lot of generally-reliable mileage out of the old R-7 Semyorka ICBM design that featured 16 first-stage engines in pods of 4 burning kerosene and LOX at liftoff.
* * *
Now then: Can we wait for thorough failure analysis before snickering? At the moment it seems quite possible that the multiple engine failures at liftoff (6 of 33 IIRC) were caused, not by anything inherently flawed in the vehicle configuration, but by debris blasted up into the booster engine compartment when the supposedly extremely resistant (obviously not resistant enough!) concrete of the launch pad shattered under 17 million pounds of thrust.
Even so, the 24/7 stack made it to 40 km altitude, where the brand-new and untested passive stage separation technique failed when the assemblage started tumbling out of control. The loss of multiple engines likely contributed to that, if it wasn’t the root cause. But we shall see.
Clearly SpaceX needs to fix Stage Zero (the launch facilities) before another launch – flame diverter and serious water deluge at a minimum. High water table at Boca Chica may make that ruinously expensive if not impossible. Lone Skum tweeted they were a couple of months away from installing a diverter but in the eagerness to get the bird off…
Now everyone knows that was a mistake. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. Maybe they’ll need to revisit the concept of seaborne launch platforms (which of course will have their own issues)…
** My guess is WvB’s conceptual engines were about as powerful as those of the A-4, roughly SotA at the time, for a total of ~3 million pounds of thrust on liftoff. No one tried to build much bigger engines until the F-1 (~1.5 million pounds of thrust) – and getting those monsters to work reliably was a (and may have been the) major headache of the Saturn program.
The Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) at Boca Chica was a disaster waiting to happen but the Heavy booster design isn’t that bad even with thirty-three Raptor 2 engines shoehorned into the bottom. The world of engineering has moved on from the time when the Soviet N1 was designed and built and the SpaceX Raptor 2 engines are quite good and reliable bits of kit.
One issue with the OLM is that it’s actually coupled to the outer ring of twenty Raptor 2 engines at the base of the Heavy booster to provide turbine startup gas for the twenty rocket motor pumps. All other boosters carry bottled gas to spin up the turbines for their rocket engines and the Heavy actually carries gas for the thirteen central Raptor 2 engines since some of them will need to be restarted to land the Heavy booster after separation from the Starship upper stage. The problem is that if one or more of the OLM connection adaptors doesn’t work that motor can’t start – in what SpaceX calls “spin prime” cold start tests they’ve never successfully got all thirty-three engines to spin up at the same time and it’s always been one or more of the outer twenty engines that fail to start. It looks like they only got 31 motors spun up for this launch. It might have been why it took so long to take off after ignition, the launch controllers were maybe hoping the two lagging motors would fire up if they waited a few seconds with the other motors running at reduced thrust.
Bad things were visibly happening in flight even when the Starship Heavy had cleared the pad — plumes of leaking methane burning orange was seen coming from within the engine cluster followed by more engines shutting down, probably due to accumulated damage from the takeoff. The total thrust expected was way down on what it should have been, after most of the Heavy section’s propellant had been expended it was travelling a lot slower than it should have been and it never reached the correct altitude and velocity for separation. My guess is that the flight control system had to spend too much time and propellant correcting the unbalanced thrust from the failed engines and not enough delta vee was left to push the stack on its planned trajectory, but that’s only my guess. SpaceX is a closely-held corporation and they are very secretive so I don’t expect any real data from that “test flight” to be made public. NASA, on the other hand, holds a press conference every time someone drops a spanner but they have to since they’re a public organisation.