On Friday, July 28th, SpaceX conducted the first test of the new launch pad cooling system at the Starbase in southern Texas. Huge amounts of water were discharged for the first time towards and around the orbital launch mount of the structure.
The company and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, shared the video of the test on Twitter, showcasing the system in action. Musk stated in the video sharing post, “New water cooling system to protect against the immense heat and force of Starship launch”.
Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation transportation system designed to carry people and cargo to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The 120-meter-tall spacecraft is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. The immense force and heat generated during the launch were demonstrated to the world on April 20th.
On that day, SpaceX launched a complete spacecraft for the first time. The test flight aimed to send its upper stage around the Earth. However, the vehicle encountered some issues during the launch, and SpaceX sent the self-destruct command, causing the spacecraft to explode after four minutes of flight.
The April 20th launch also caused significant damage to Starbase’s orbital launch mount. The test created a crater beneath the structure, producing large amounts of rocks and other debris in the surrounding area.
The new cooling system, installed beneath the launch pad, is an attempt to minimize damages in future tests. It consists of a reinforced steel plate that sprays massive amounts of water upwards. Musk likened it to an inverted sprinkler.
SpaceX is currently preparing for the second test launch of Starship, but the exact date of the liftoff is unclear. Although the vehicle is ready to depart soon, there may still be regulatory hurdles to overcome. A coalition of environmental groups is currently suing the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Activists claim that the agency has not adequately assessed the damage that launching a starship could cause to the ecosystem and the community in southern Texas.