The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded SpaceX's Starship prototypes pending the results of a "mishap investigation" following this month's explosive orbital flight test. https://t.co/3kcpXE744z pic.twitter.com/qAjr6AYznB
— IGN (@IGN) April 25, 2023
… Thankfully, no injuries have been documented as a result of the launch. However, the debris field was found to be significantly larger than the 700-acre region projected in the event of an explosion on the launch pad. As reported by CNBC, windows were smashed, and particulate debris fell on the town of Port Isabel, some six miles from the lift-off site…
Any debris from the launch encountered by the public should be reported, and given a wide berth, as experts are not yet sure whether the material is hazardous if directly handled or inhaled.
The FAA has now grounded Starship prototypes as it conducts a thorough “mishap investigation” designed to determine issues with the launch vehicle, their effect on the environment, and to ensure the safety of the nearby population for subsequent launches.
Each commercial launch licence handed out by the FAA requires the user to have an approved mishap plan in place detailing what should happen in the event of an issue arising during a launch, and so the FAA’s move to halt Starship launches is both inevitable and predictable.
What we don’t know is how long the probe will delay the Starship program. Mishap investigations can last several months, and the FAA will want to be satisfied that any “system, process, or procedure related to the mishap” will not put the public’s safety at risk during the next launch attempt.
SpaceX will also need to complete additional “environmental mitigations” according to an email from the FAA sent to CNBC. This is because debris from the launch entered “adjacent properties” during the recent orbital attempt…
Musk’s standard response to such ‘nanny-state interference’ has been a combination of PR bullsh*t and legal obfuscation, but recently his magikal mad promotional skillz have taken a battering and he’s laid off a lot of the lawyers, so who knows what happens now? He certainly won’t give up his God-Emperor of Mars fantasies easily, but will the FAA take a less lackadaisical stance towards his future move fast, break stuff endeavors?
Thomas Edison once told a reporter “I have not failed 10,000 times—I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” And after he got credulous media to print his punchy quotes, he went back to taking credit for other people's work. I forget where I was going with this. https://t.co/mx1Zsi0fEj
— Zack Budryk (@BudrykZack) April 24, 2023
Not saying I 100% endorse the following thread, but I appreciate its arguments…
another environmental catastrophe for the surrounding wetlands, but gee whiz we sure learned a lot, and with NASA's help and millions in diverted public funding, we've nearly caught up to the success rate of late 50s NASA!
one a these days, alice! pow! right to the moon! https://t.co/viwMmZye55
— some native (@heyMAKWA) April 20, 2023
also, NASA failures were subject to public oversight, on account of how they were spending money supplied by the taxpayers of america!
SpaceX is also spending your tax dollars through parasitising NASA labour and skill, but will never be subject to public oversight. cos Elon!
SpaceX will never be required to locate and retrieve every piece of a failed rocket bigger than a quarter, and spend the time to work out what actually went wrong…
anyways, land back because you are self evidently unfit to manage it or usefully apply the technologies you’re so DESPERATELY proud of
“well you have to make some sacrifices for science” cool, how about you boost your speedrun of Why We Don’t Do Shit Like This Any More by faithfully recreating the Nedelin disaster
i have a lot of beef with NASA as a top-down nationalist colonial military project, but for the most part the people who work there and go into space want to advance space flight and satellite technology for the whole world
spacex employees want their stock options to appreciate
even at the height of the cold war, soviet and us scientists were making hardcopy of important safety info and passing it along to each other, cos they had more in common with each other than they did with their employers
they understood it was a species thing, a planet thing, in a way that transcended political allegiance. and that is deeply cool. i respect that so much.
elon musk wants to get to mars to claim it, for his own personal immortality project. he wants company towns and indenture.
SpaceX not only shouldn’t exist, they owe a massive amount of money to the american public as well as complete site cleanup, we’re talking years of COMBING THE SANDS VERY GENTLY, and compensation for damages to the state of texas and the people who live around boca chica
nobody should be landing on planets aside from the moon without it being an international venture every time.
and we can all start taxing our billionaires and restoring our communities to pay for it. we don’t need Dipshit Tony Stark acting like little lord mars
The ground damage isn't fatal to the program, but I see fans saying cringe stuff like, "the giant crater is a GOOD outcome because now it's less work digging a flame trench!".
Um no, it was a setback, and nearly blew the rocket up on the pad which would have meant no flight data https://t.co/G3B90y1aes
— David Burbach (also @dburbach Mast/Post) (@dburbach) April 24, 2023
Members of the public checking out the craters from debris after the road to Boca Chica State Beach was reopened. @AFPphoto @AFP pic.twitter.com/TS9GlpBMW1
— Patrick T. Fallon (@pfal) April 22, 2023
I’m seeing a lot of people classify the reactions to this morning’s launch into “space people” and “not space people” so in a likely futile attempt to give a little nuance to this hellsite:
1) I am definitely a space person
2) Someone I am personally close to works on Starship 1/
— Emily J (@EmExAstris) April 20, 2023
3) Rockets blowing up is definitely part of the process of learning to not make them blow up
4) Space is hard. Everyone loses hardware.
5) It’s still very, very worth pointing and laughing at this loss because: 2/
6) The US government in general, and NASA in particular, should not be subsidizing a company owned by a man who fascist, racist, transphobic, antisemitic, and every other variety of bigot. 3/
7) NASA has been asked repeatedly about their association with that man, and they dodge the question every time
8) I’m aware that he’s not “directly” running things any more. He still is CEO, Chairman, and has majority control of the company. 4/
9) There is absolutely nothing that company is doing that couldn’t be done elsewhere. Because the CEO has jackshit to do with the actual work.
10) So NASA should give the contracts it holds elsewhere and let the actual talent follow the money.
If you snitch tag, I block
12) That company has over $12 billion in NASA contracts. It has $2 billion in annual revenue. Make the board choose between the founder and the contracts and they only have one option.
13) While stipulating that:
a) Sometimes first launches blow up and that can be fine
b) They are not exactly equivalent vehicles…
SLS didn’t blow up on first launch.
Addendum the third:
14) No one “blew up” $3 billion today. The vast majority of money spent “in space” goes to people’s salaries – no matter who is running the mission. I don’t know the actual, material costs of the lost vehicle and other damages, but it wasn’t $3 billion.
Here we go, a deep-dive on how the largest rocket in history was launched from a dirt-cheap site that would be substandard everywhere else in the world, including Russia and China.
This was a massive regulatory failure. There should be accountability.https://t.co/r3YgEngj89
— Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly) April 22, 2023
Sorry, but this is a good attitude to have.
Does Texas bear any responsibility here?
I think the criticism is not of the attitude so much but of Thomas Edison taking credit for all of the work.
Fixed that for you.
Now I’m wondering if all the prehistoric craters on the planet not the result of meteors but of failed attempts by dinosaur billionaires to build gigantic rockets.
Mike in NC
SpaceX shouldn’t exist, but most people would be happy to see Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and any number of other shitheads loaded onto a rocket and blasted into outer space on a one-way mission.
Why were they allowed to buld a launchpad there in the first place? Surely there are a million other acres in Texas that aren’t anywhere near people or endangered species.
One thing that struck me about that launch is how the booster’s engines chewed a 20 foot hole beneath the launch pad. The rocket must have been hovering in midair by the time it finally started upwards. It was up or out.
I wonder if it’s practicable to build a launch pad for that booster. It may be too big.
Learning that SpaceX had a bunch of parts already on-site for a system that would have at least partially mitigated the damage to the pad but they launched before the system was installed because, quite possibly, Musk wanted to make a 4/20 pot joke, is just flabbergasting. Supposedly they had a ‘keep Musk away from important decisions’ team, who I guess were all on an extended spring break or something.
@Baud: That it is, that it is. There’s another saying for this situation:
“A year rebuilding your launchpad and rocket can save you six weeks in the library learning aboout blast diverters and proper launchpad design”
How can it be impracticable to build a larger launch pad? It’s just more expensive, and Musk didn’t want to pay for it.
As noted above in the post, the result seems to have been very predictable and indicative of complete regulatory failure: https://blog.esghound.com/p/spacexs-texas-rocket-is-going-to
@Shalimar: Its Texas, they care not for your humans or endangered species.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Baud: @Steeplejack: Yeah, but it’s worth saying that negative findings are still findings. There’s a bias against publishing them in scholarly journals, but that’s a loss for other investigators
@Shalimar: On the coast, at least a few miles away from any town, with a clear line to the east and southeast that doesn’t come too close to any islands in the Gulf. That starts to narrow things down a lot. Really they should have just built their big launch setup at Canaveral. Which they’re also doing, but Musk wanted his Texas factory site to be a full launch location, no matter whether it actually made sense.
I truly hate that man. But spaceX the company has reinvigorated the space industry. NASA funding got them there, but they have drastically reduced cost to orbit, and in turn drastically increased launch cadence.
they can’t just be replaced, NASA to its credit has been going out of its way to fund other launch companies, but none of the others are anywhere close to as mature as spaceX. Falcon 9 is the only vehicle in the US that can transport astronauts. 1/3 of worldwide orbital launches were made by spacex because they are cheaper than any other. NASA signed moon contracts with them, because they were the only company that put in a bid anywhere close to the reality of NASA’s budget.
I want to never here from elon again, and maybe NASA could use its clout to force him from company, I hope something like that happens, but currently spacex is the only option for a lot of things, blame Boeing who got even more money from NASA and still hasn’t gotten their crew vehicle operational years and years late.
@Baud: Sure, unless you’re the victim of his inconvenient debris.
I don’t think so. AFAIK, all this stuff is under federal regulatory control, not state.
Humans fail far more often than they succeed and recognizing why is the mark of an actual intellectual who understands and is the basis of learning better. Burying your head in a sandbox never ever brings better, just delay, of failure.
This is the correct procedure: film and detailed technical commentary of the Apollo Saturn V launchpad, which was fully reusable (after cleanup). By contrast, Elon’s ridiculous toy was nothing more than a scaled-up V2 launchpad.
@PJ: Just went to link that same article, which was written before the launch.
Regulatory failure…also regulatory capture. Most PPP’s end up publicizing losses and privatizing profit. We have too many government agencies in the thrall of billionaires whose fealty to public good is a sham.
@ColoradoGuy: This is very impressive
Governor Abbott has already pardoned SpaceX because it stood its ground and refused to take off.
Mark Sumner at DKOS had an article about how the lack of noise suppression and a flame trench may have been responsible for the failure of the launch. Vibrations (and perhaps debris) may have damaged some of the engines (you could see that at least five of them weren’t firing in some of the shots), which meant that the rocket did not achieve its target velocity by the time for second stage separation. As a result, the engines kept firing instead of shutting down.
Another of Musk’s economizing moves is to have the stage separation done by gravity instead of forcing the stages apart with thrusters (this is why it tilts down at that point — the second stage is supposed to fall away from the first stage), but because the first stage engines were still trying to accelerate the rocket up to target speed, the second stage couldn’t separate.
Musk justifies this kind of economy by saying that a component you don’t as is a component that can’t fail, which might be okay unless the lack of that component causes other problems.
I used to live in the Rio Grande Valley, about 60 miles from Boca Chica, also known as the Mouth of the River. Back in 2021, a friend who still lives there sent me this link, describing what was happening. The site also links to others about what was happening in 2021. I can only imagine how much worse things have gotten since then. It is an environmental tragedy.
Interesting arguments, but they’ve all overlooked one thing: Poop Emoji
Retired rocket scientist here…
I was unable to determine if Space X is trying to avoid a full up failure analysis of their failure, but if they are, they are idiots. Every failure analysis is an opportunity to fully understand the weak points of the design- to understand not just the failure mode that did happen, but others that could have happened. W. Edwards Deming, the father of modern quality engineering, said that every failure should be considered to be “a treasure”.
This might seem counter-intuitive, but aerospace facilities with lots of explosives are actually good news for endangered species. (Just as the no-go zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant supports a rich animal ecosystem that could not survive elsewhere.) The US government has “quantity-distance” rules- it you’re going to handle large quantities of explosives, you have to have a buffer zone around your facility with no civilian use. Animals, including endangered animals, thrive in these buffer zones.
The rocket facility that I used to work in was a haven for the threatened bay checkerspot butterfly. We also had deer, elk, lynx, raccoons, skunks, and at least one mountain lion. All this less than 30 miles south of a developed urban area.
Ya know, Elon, if you don’t want your customer, the one you signed contracts with, to make sure you’re selling them a working product and not wrecking everything around it, you don’t have to do business with the government, or launch in the USA. I’m sure you can find someone pay you megabucks to build exploding rockets and janky launch pads somewhere else, even if you’re desperately trying to gain catturd’s approval on Twitter all the time.
The Moar You Know
Just a small criticism: late 50s NASA success rate was about 2%. They blew up a LOT of rockets before finally getting America’s first satellite in orbit.
Space is hard and for at least the next decade, America’s only path to space is via SpaceX. NASA is plowing as much money as it can into alternatives. You can see how well that’s worked out so far. They will get there, but it takes time.
With THAT being said, the Bolsa Chica site is not being adequately managed. That’s damn obvious and needs to change.
@ColoradoGuy: modeled after a V2 launch pad, you say?
How incredibly apt for Elon.
@Andrya: Thanks for sharing your expertise! I have only a couple of frivolous responses:
One is that SpaceX’s philosophy under Musk seems to be less “Let’s run a science experiment” and more “Hold my beer.”
The other is my favorite Mitchell and Webb skit, which I recommend to everyone; even as familiar and predictable as it is, the timing is genius.
I had a childhood friend who worked for NASA as a zoologist. She did her work exactly in those zones.
@PJ: I’m not making excuses for Musk, or for the regulators either. I’m saying he may have imposed a design requirement on the Space-X team that was impractical. I guess it’s possible to build blast trenches, etc. to mitigate the damage to the pad by.a 30-engine booster, while still providing structural support for the unit.. But how is a booster that size essential? Is this a question of practicality, or of grandiosity?
My understanding is that Space X has another system that is not much less powerful than this one, and it works. This 30-engine design may have been imposed by Musk on his engineers against their better judgement.
@Jeffro: Check out videos of V2 launches. The launchpad is a dinky little metal stand with a metal flame deflector under it.
Lest we forget, the Saturn V program was run by a real former Nazi, not a pretend one, so Huntsville ran a tight ship.
From your question, I’m getting the impression that you think that big rockets are sitting on something and the engines exhaust needs to “push” on something to lift off. That’s not the way it works.*
Big rockets are supported above a big hole or fancy blast diverters. The stuff from the engines is not pushing against something. (In the Saturn V movie above, the rocket is sitting on some very strong “fingers” and clamps that are outside the blast area.)
Yes, the Starship was sitting on the pad a very long time, and a hurricane of blast debris was kicked up as a result of Melon being too stubborn to mitigate the known forces and the known risks.
One of the earlier threads here had an expert saying that Melon would probably have to build a hill for the launch pad and blast mitigation features, because the water table is so high being so close to the coast (like they had to do in Florida).
(* Remember that F = ma – the upward force is generated by throwing mass (burnt fuel) out the bottom of the rocket engine at high speed, not by the stuff being thrown out somehow pushing on something else.)
I’ll be shocked if that thing flies again before April 2024.
@ColoradoGuy: I was watching that the other day. It’s incredibly impressive
All those people would be completely on board if they were still in office.
In the next open thread, I would like to discuss AT LENGTH WaPo hack Marc Thiessen’s impassioned pleas for the GOP base to save itself from…itself.
He knows what everyone here knew years ago: trump excites his base but repels a large majority of other voters, both Dem and “independent”.
BUT…who am I to dissuade them from losing for a fourth straight election? Not I, not I…
I think we can get 60% and win. BUT. It would be better to beat them in August, on their referendum.
pushing your launch date to match your signature 420 marijuana meme and telling your team to not finish the ground measures that protect against this degree of damage is so negligent that the entire company needs to be put on pause until they can promise to never let Elon Musk make any decisions about anything ever.
@Jeffro: That was a hilarious hate-read for me.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Agree in general, but I don’t think this is a good for-instance. Seems that what they learned is on the order of “if you push something hard enough, it will fall over.” Or rather, all that stuff about launch pad design that NASA knew 50 years ago is still true.
@dmsilev: he’s SO SAD that this is all but inevitable for the GOP!
But unfortunately, it’s violin emojis, all the way down!
@dmsilev: “DON’T MAKE IT A ‘CHOICE’ ELECTION!! DON’T YOU SEE, YOU SIMPLETONS??”
Marc, Marc, Marc…
Yes, beat them twice.
David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
blowback is a bitch
@Another Scott: No, I’m not under the misapprehension that rockets need to to push against something to lift off. Sheesh!
That booster excavated a 20 deep foot hole, and I was wondering if it still had physical support in the seconds before it started to rise.
And I read the experts linked in the earlier threads. I guess you are so used to talking down to me you think you actually have something to be condescending about. I have yet to see it though.
@RSA:Thanks for this new one. Thought it would be the “are we the baddies?” skit.
also would like to gab about Fox having “oppo files” on ol’ Tucker should he chose to come at them post-firing…
How in the hell am I supposed to
get any work done sleepfocus even on a basic level for the next 18 months??
The only thing worse than a circular firing squad is a CIRCULAR GRENADE-PITCH PARTY, Republicans! Have at it!
@Baud: chills here
could it…could it really happen?
let’s hope we find out!
@oatler: I watch this one with people who will shout out the next lines and still laugh when they arrive on screen. Something about comic timing…
@Baud: Within the margin of error of crazification.
Yeah, it’s not five sigma.
@lowtechcyclist: Hm, yeah. It’s one thing to push against the limits…with new tech or new approaches. It’s another to push against known safety limits that safeguard against known effects–that’s just playing Russian roulette.
@Kay: I’ve been following this. What’s your sense of how this will go?
And Ohio Mom, if you’re around.
@Baud: Kinda matches the percentage who think being anti-woke is a positive… 🤔
After layoffs at FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver also departs:
Frustrating that what caused the Starship rocket to fail were things that we knew worked many decades ago. SpaceX has done lots of good things, like the Falcon 9 which performs well. I’m sure the engineers at SpaceX knew what they were doing, but Melon overruled them. I do volunteer work with NASA running engineering programs for kids. I don’t agree that SpaceX employees only care about stock options. Maybe some are Melon True Believers but I wager most are serious scientists and SpaceX is the only game in town. I have a friend who lives in Texas near the launch site and they hate hate HATE that it is in their neighborhood. SpaceX needs to accept reality and launch this thing from the Cape.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
If the August special election is revived for this August, I’d like to see a postcard campaign for it
@The Moar You Know: The technology to not blow up rockets (and the area surrounding the launch) has been around for over 60 years. Space X, like everything Musk touches, seems to be an unregulated farce.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
I’m glad Kay has been on this issue. It’s important to remind ourselves and others (especially the so-called anti-cancel culture crusaders) that anti-wokeism is actually very unpopular nationally
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Yes! You love to see it
@Jeffro: Claymores would work.
It is also good to remind ourselves that all the equipment used in the original space program and the moon landing was built by private companies, and not by NASA. The Apollo project alone had up to a dozen prime contractors, including Grumman Corp., North American Aviation, IBM, Rocketdyne, Douglas Aircraft, and General Motors.
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka): Absolutely agree!
Obligatory: Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown
Yup. Forget the sniggering about pot. April 20th is Hitler’s birth date.
@Jeffro: OMG for real. We need to pace ourselves. 😂
@NotMax: The original launch date was April 17th, so I don’t think all this numerology is going anywhere.
The yoots could care less – I can testify that they are big on celebrating 4/20, but there are probably not one in a hundred that could tell you the date of Hitler’s birthday.
@ColoradoGuy: I have been to Peeneminde twice. There was a dugout area to contain flames and explosions .
@ColoradoGuy: I have been to Peeneminde twice. There was a dugout area to contain flames and explosions .
@Nettoyeur: So Elon’s blast containment area was less sophisticated than the V2?
That falls in the category of willful ignorance. Not blaming SpaceX, but the nutcase running it. NASA is going to have to tighten the terms of the contract to get him out of the loop.
The story at the time was that this site was closer to the Equator than any alternative. No idea whether that’s a valid reason or a pretext for immiserating brown people and endangered species. It could be anything with Leon Skum.
@Burnspbesq: There are definite advantages in launching near the equator, for many types of launches, but especially for geostationary launches, which are quite common.
That said, as I pointed out before, aerospace sites do not have to be bad for wildlife. They can be good for wildlife. In addition to the rocket factory where I used to work, I know that Kennedy Space Center (in Florida, about as close as you can get to the equator in the US) has lots of wildlife. One time I was out there, and someone (not me) left the door to a control room open. An alligator invaded the control room. An argument ensued as to WHOSE job it was to evict the alligator. The argument was ongoing when the alligator, fortunately, became bored and left…
If Elon Musk and Space X are creating an environmental disaster, it’s because they are sociopathic jerks, not because rockets and wildlife cannot coexist.