What a debacle: The FAA has now grounded SpaceX’s Starship program “pending results of a ‘mishap investigation.'”
“It’s not yet known” whether the fallout material “is dangerous to touch or breathe in and what effect it could have on soil health.”
Total disaster, all because Musk thought it would be funny to launch on 4/20. There’s so much in this story. It’ll be months, maybe years before Starship launches again. …
This is why there should be no such thing as a billionaire. Tax them into oblivion!
Good. What a waste of money with tons of pollution thrown in.
fugit cum forfex @fugitcumforfex:
He doesn’t care.
Rich does not necessarily mean smart. In some cases, it means the opposite.
Toby Pinder (parody)@tobypinder:
He destroys everything he touches in the most uniquely cringe manner possible
SpaceX Starship explosion spread particulate matter for miles by Lora Kolodny, April 24, 2023, CNBC
Researchers are scrambling to assess health and environmental impacts of SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy test flight last week, which spread particulate matter far beyond the expected debris field.
The largest rocket ever built blew up in mid-flight, with no crew on board, leading the FAA to ground the Starship Super Heavy launch program pending a “mishap investigation.”
Environmental engineers and advocates are concerned the ash- and sand-like particulate matter could hurt people’s respiratory health, and could irreparably harm endangered species in the area.
SpaceX launched the largest rocket ever built for the first time on Thursday from its Boca Chica, Texas, spaceport. The Starship spacecraft, designed to fly people on a Mars mission someday, lifted off the launch pad then blew up in mid-flight, with no crew on board.
Now, residents and researchers are scrambling to assess the impact of the explosion on local communities, their health, habitat and wildlife including endangered species. Of primary concern is the large amount of sand- and ash-like particulate matter and heavier debris kicked up by the launch. The particulate emissions spread far beyond the expected debris field.
As a result of the explosion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the company’s Starship Super Heavy launch program pending results of a “mishap investigation,” part of standard practice, according to an email from the agency sent to CNBC after the launch. No injuries or public property damage had yet been reported to the agency as of Friday.
SpaceX did not immediately return a request for comment.
Not in the plan
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, speaking publicly on Twitter Spaces on April 16 ahead of the test flight, acknowledged that a vehicle with 33 engines is akin to “a box of grenades,” and that the Starship vehicle was not likely to reach orbit but was likely to explode.
However, Musk and SpaceX did not accurately predict that their launchpad would be destroyed, nor that particulate matter would rain down on residents and habitat as far away as Port Isabel, a town about six miles from the launchpad, and South Padre Island, a few miles up the coast from the site.
Images captured during the test flight show that the SpaceX launch pad also exploded, with concrete chunks from it flying in multiple directions leaving behind a giant crater underneath. According to Dave Cortez, the Lone Star chapter director for the Sierra Club, a 501c4 environmental advocacy group, “Concrete shot out into the ocean, and risked hitting the fuel storage tanks which are these silos adjacent to the launch pad.”
Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said that in an environmental assessment – which SpaceX completed to obtain a launch license – the company told the FAA and other agencies that in the event of an “anomaly” they expected debris would fall within a limited, 700-acre area surrounding the launch site.
That would translate to a one-square-mile debris field, with debris emanating about three-quarters of a mile away from the site, he said, referencing SpaceX environmental site assessment documents that are public record.
In reality, following the test flight and explosion, people in Port Isabel reported broken windows in their businesses, shaking windows at their homes, and dust and particulate matter that coated their homes, schools and land unexpectedly, according to Cortez.
Port Isabel is a mainland town near the SpaceX spaceport, and across from the South Padre Island offshore, which also got a share of particulate matter, according to correspondence between researchers and residents shared with CNBC.
It’s not yet known whether the ash- and sand-like particulate matter is dangerous to touch or breathe in and what effect it could have on soil health, Cortez and Margolis both noted.
One industry chronicler who reported locally on the launch, Lavie Ohana, wrote that the launch was also “one of the loudest” she had ever witnessed, “with shockwaves that just felt like getting punched over and over and over.”
Effects on endangered species
Margolis said the Center for Biological Diversity is worried about the effects of the noise, particulate and heavier debris on endangered species that make their home in the area, including the piping plover, red knot, jaguarundi, ocelot populations and sea turtles including the Kemp’s Ridley, which nests on the beaches of Boca Chica and is one of the most critically endangered sea turtles in the world.
February through June is the nesting season for the Kemp’s Ridley.
National Wildlife Refuge lands, which are very near the launch pad, are designated critical habitat for the piping plover, he emphasized.
Cortez added that Sierra Club members have been especially worried about human health impacts and how the aftermath of the explosion may limit people’s ability to get outdoors, whether to fish for their dinner, enjoy the beach or take a hike in the many parks and protected wildlife areas close to Starbase.
The impacts of particulate emissions from the SpaceX launch won’t be understood until samples are evaluated and the debris field measured comprehensively.
But in general, particulate emissions are regulated under the federal Clean Air Act and Texas state law.
Eric Roesch, an environmental engineer who has been tracking the impact of SpaceX facilities and launches on his blog, ESGHound, said that particulate emissions are associated with pulmonary and respiratory issues, and are considered a high priority pollutant by the EPA. Health impacts depend upon exposure time and quantity, as well as particle size, and contents of the particulate, he added.
Roesch has been warning the public for months that the FAA and SpaceX had not been careful enough in their environmental analysis to comfortably proceed with a launch of this magnitude. He said, “The possibility of a widely dispersed plume of emissions was not disclosed by the FAA or SpaceX, during the initial environmental permitting and approval process.”
Margolis and Cortez both noted that roads had been damaged, with gates and cordons closed immediately following the SpaceX Starship test flight. That meant wildlife biologists and other field researchers could not immediately pass through to study the full scale of any damage that occurred in a nearby wildlife refuge area – though some were reportedly on location by Saturday April 22.
One concern is that evidence of harm to endangered species could be removed from the site before regulators have an opportunity to assess it, Margolis said.
Getting back to flight
Elon Musk wrote in a tweet on April 21, 2023, after the test flight: “3 months ago, we started building a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount. Wasn’t ready in time & we wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that Fondag would make it through 1 launch. Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months.”
CNBC asked the FAA what it will take for SpaceX to be authorized to conduct another test flight or launch of the Starship Super Heavy vehicle from Boca Chica, Texas.
The agency said in an email that a return to flight for the Starship Super Heavy will require the FAA to decide that “any system, process, or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety.”
Because they are still gathering information, the FAA and the Texas regional office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were not able to answer questions yet about any environmental impacts of the Thursday launch. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.
However, the FAA told CNBC via e-mail that the explosion activated something called an “anomaly response plan,” which is part of a 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment completed by the company along with state and federal agencies, and that SpaceX has additional “environmental mitigations” they must complete before launching again. The plan “was triggered by debris entering adjacent properties,” the FAA noted.
After completing the list of tasks in the plan and mitigations SpaceX will need to ask the FAA to amend their launch license, to gain clearance for another test flight.
The Center for Biological Diversity attorney, Jared Margolis, believes the FAA requirements will be minimal and easy for the company to fulfill, but not ultimately effective in safeguarding local residents’ wellbeing and endangered species.
He explained, “We are not against space exploration or this company. But while we are looking to the stars, we should not readily sacrifice communities, habitat and species.”
I’m starting to think we shouldn’t rely on private companies to assess the environmental risk of their activities.
Basically, Elon fucked himself on the Starship timeline by being an impatient asshole.
Yep. 5 initially didn’t fire, 1 exploded 28 seconds into the ascent and 2 flameouts before MaxQ. Loss of the outer ring engines made it unstable and uncontrollable. It was sluggish getting off the pad and there was a visible shudder before that 1 raptor exploded.
Skip To Mallou@SkipToMallou:
I read somewhere (so I don’t have a reliable source) that the debris from the damaged launchpad is what damaged the engines.
If that’s correct then that’s a major error. So weird to see the gantry or whatever so close to the vehicle compared to NASA launches.
Yep. And all those giant tanks of methane and LOX right next to the pad!
Could this be why it was spinning (what seemed like) sort of out of control???
This is exactly the reason.
I kept thinking to myself, “why the hell does this thing need to do a somersault to stage?
That’s not even remotely normal.
It did 3 and 1/2 complete flips in the air.
I’ve been an Aerospace engineer for 35 years.
I have never seen, nor heard of, a rocket doing that.
The failure of the SpaceX launch yesterday can be directly linked to a personal decision that Elon Musk made 3 years ago to not install flame diverters on the Starship launchpad.
He overruled his own engineers on this design flaw, and admitted publicly.
It’s his fault.
And because of this decision, the launchpad was blasted apart and debris slammed into the engines at the bottom of the booster, damaging them.
Ultimately resulting in the spectacular cartwheels and explosion that we saw just moments later.
Emmett Macfarlane @EmmMacfarlane:
Musk has the leadership qualities of a rabid squirrel.
Bjørnar Egede-Nissen (bjornar@post) @bjornar_en:
I believe I’ve read that working with Musk at Tesla/SpaceX all about containment and manipulation, to keep him on the straight and narrow as much as possible. I’m guessing he doesn’t have any minders at Twitter.
SpaceX Launch on 420: “Rapid unscheduled disassembly”
NASA’s Artemis moon program is paying SpaceX billions to build a variant of the Starship upper stage to carry astronauts down to the lunar surface as early as the end of 2025. Those plans, along with at least three commercial all-civilian flights of the Starship — including two carrying wealthy space tourists on around-the-moon flights — now face delays while SpaceX analyzes telemetry to find and fix whatever went wrong.
The FAA granted SpaceX a launch license last Friday after more than 500 days of painstaking analysis, environmental impact assessments, public comment and government mandated mitigations to minimize the impact of launch — or a catastrophic failure — on public health, property and the coastal environment around the Boca Chica launch site.
There’s No Way to Make Space Travel Good for Planet Earth Right Now by Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, April 19, 2023
SpaceX has never been reluctant to brag, especially when it comes to its celebrated Falcon 9 rocket. Since 2010, as a company toteboard shows, 217 Falcon 9s have flown, with 61 launches in 2022 alone, making it the workhorse of the current global space fleet. So what’s not to like? Plenty, actually—at least if you care about the environment.
The Falcon 9 uses a fuel mixture of liquid oxygen and simple kerosene, and while the oxygen does not do any harm to the skies, the black soot created by the burning kerosene is injected directly into the stratosphere—the layer of air ranging from 12 km (7.5 mi.) to 50 km (31 mi.) above the Earth. There the soot lingers for up to five years, absorbing heat, contributing to climate change, and damaging the ozone layer, which exposes the planet to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation. And SpaceX is not remotely alone.
According to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), global rocket launches (of which there were 180 last year, the study notes) inject about 1,000 tons of soot into the upper atmosphere per year. That will only get worse, NOAA warns, as the industry continues to expand. “The bottom line is projected increases in rocket launches could expose people in the Northern Hemisphere [where most rocket launches take place] to increased harmful UV radiation,” environmental scientist Christopher Maloney, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
By themselves, rocket launches are small contributors to overall atmospheric pollutants. The aviation industry burns 100 times more fuel each year than all of the rockets launched globally combined. But there is a key atmospheric difference: airplanes fly in the troposphere about 11 km (6.6 mi.) above the ground. Soot precipitates quickly from this range compared to stratospheric soot which sticks around much longer. Indeed, according to the NOAA report, a single passenger aboard a rocket is responsible for 100 times more climate-changing pollution than a passenger aboard an airplane.
Not only does all of this warm the planet and damage the ozone, the NOAA scientists warn, but the change in temperatures can also slow subtropical jet streams, worsening summer monsoons in Africa and India. “We need to learn more about the potential impact of hydrocarbon-burning engines on the stratosphere and on the climate at the surface of the Earth,” said Maloney.
The type of fuel used in the rockets can make a difference. SpaceX’s massive, 33-engine Starship spacecraft, for example, uses methane in place of kerosene. While methane is a powerful greenhouse gas by itself, it does burn cleaner than kerosene, putting out less black soot. None of this means that the private rocket industry or growing space powers like China, India, and the United Arab Emirates—to say nothing of the U.S.—will be slowing down their launch schedules or becoming less pollution-intensive any time soon.
The thriving space industry is typically seen as a boon for both the economy and for human exploration—and it is. But the launching of a monster rocket—with monster exhaust—like SpaceX’s anticipated Starship is a reminder that there can be too much of a good thing. If we keep increasing not just the size of rockets but the number of launches, we do so at a price; and as with so many other things, it is the climate that pays.
Environmentalists and Native American tribe rebuke SpaceX ahead of historic rocket launch by Cameron Langford, Courthouse News
SpaceX launched a rocket with 33 engines, the most powerful ever built, Thursday morning from its South Texas port and hailed the test flight as a success, though the rocket and an attached space capsule exploded just four minutes after liftoff. Environmental and civil rights groups condemned SpaceX’s endeavor in statements Wednesday afternoon, saying they feared an explosion would destroy endangered species’ habitat in a nearby wildlife refuge and that rocket shrapnel could injure area residents. But there were no immediate reports of environmental damage or injuries Thursday morning after the explosion.
Aborted launches and explosions are commonplace for the company as it refines its technology, including a 2019 test flight from its “Spaceport” in Boca Chica — an unincorporated and sparsely populated village in Cameron County outside Brownsville, Texas — that started a 100-acre brush fire in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Spaceport sits on flat tidal plains a few miles north of where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico and near the refuge, which is a nesting place and hunting ground for endangered sea turtles and ocelots. The refuge is also a stopover for hundreds of species of migratory birds and butterflies.
The Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas’ chairman Juan Mancias said when SpaceX blocks the road to Boca Chica Beach, an 8-mile public beach, as allowed by its FAA permit as a safety precaution for its rocket tests, it prevents the tribe from accessing sacred lands for ceremonies.
SpaceX has divided residents of Brownsville, a city of 187,000 on the Mexico border. Some laud Musk and his company for bringing international attention to the area and an economic boost from SpaceX employees moving in and buying houses. In 2021, Musk donated $10 million to the city to revitalize its downtown and $20 million to Cameron County schools.
SpaceX has designed the Super Heavy rocket and Starship — which stacked together stand 390 feet tall and use 10.1 million pounds of liquid methane and liquid oxygen fuel — so they can land and be reused.
Opponents of the project say SpaceX’s and Musk’s aspirations are not worth the risk of a catastrophic explosion and collateral environmental damage. “A billionaire is closing our beach to use the land to test his experimental technology putting the lives of locals at risk while destroying acres of a wildlife reserve,” Sierra Club Brownsville organizer Emma Guevara said in a statement [More].
SpaceX’s Starship went down in ablaze of glory—and left a mess for locals who warned about the impact by Andrea Guzman, April 21, 2023, Yahoo Finance
In what was supposed to be the first voyage of the most massive rocket ever built, SpaceX’s Starship experienced multiple engine failures and quickly began losing altitude and tumbling moments after launch.
It resulted in an explosion that caused residents near the launch site in South Texas to notice ashy particulates falling from the sky and vibrations in their classrooms and homes.
The city of Port Isabel How do they know?said there is no immediate concern for people’s health and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk declared the fireworks show a victory, saying SpaceX “learned a lot for the next test launch in a few months.”
But for the community near the site, it will take time to clean up from this one—a nearby road was covered in debris and temporarily closed and teams dedicated to protecting the bays and estuaries of the Texas coastal bend are busy surveying the damage. It’s an area where shorebirds have had their habitat disrupted from prototypes that exploded after previous test launches, and at least two species have stopped or reduced nesting in recent years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Elon Musk, like Encana’s Gwyn Morgan, is a selfish arrogant polluting asshole destroying the night sky and bird migration, and causing many more harms to many.
It’s these concerns that drew residents to release a statement before the launch, blasting SpaceX and elected officials for declining to meet about Starship and often cutting off their access to the beach.
“Whenever Elon Musk and his accomplices, the Cameron County Commissioners and Texas General Land Office, close Boca Chica beach for his pet project SpaceX, they destroy our native life ways.” The rich and their pawns don’t give a shit about anything but themselves and theirs. The rest of us only matter as workers for the rich to mistreat, grossly profit off and force women to be baby incubators ensuring lots more worker slaves to abuse in future, over populating and destroying earth’s ability to sustain life. wrote Juan B. Mancias, Carrizo Comecrudo Tribal Chairman.
The local community’s clash with SpaceX to protect and access their beach and wildlife represents a striking contrast to the company’s grand vision for the future. SpaceX wants to make humans a multi-planetary society, and Musk has shared his thoughts that getting humans to Mars and the “greater Solar System” could protect us if large-scale devastation happened like an asteroid hitting Earth.Best thing that could happen would be for our vile species to be wiped out – the sooner the better. We’ve proven we do not deserve to live on this magnificent planet.
For now, though, it’s SpaceX’s work that’s causing destruction as it struggles to even reach the Pacific Ocean.Ha ha, funny way to end this article
Musk is not only a selfish mega polluter harming many, he’s an idiot frac’er. Humans are billions too many already for the resources on this limited planet and I doubt Musk and his ego will get our species established elsewhere (which is a good thing):
Refer also to:
Elon Musk fracs to fuel his rockets to mars but hits dry holes (too funny).
Jesse von Doom@jessevondoom:
I was skeptical before, but after seeing his management skills in action I think letting Elon Musk oversee the migration of Earth’s wealthiest people to Mars is a great idea.