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Watch SpaceX test new water deluge system for Starship launches

SpaceX has released some dramatic footage showing the testing of a new water deluge system designed to limit the damage caused by its mighty Starship rocket as its blasts off from the launchpad.

The next-generation Starship vehicle comprises the first-stage Super Heavy rocket and the upper-stage Starship spacecraft and is collectively known as the Starship. Packing 17 million pounds of thrust, the Starship is the most powerful rocket ever made.

SpaceX tested the Starship on an ill-fated debut flight in April. As it lifted off, the pad disintegrated as it was unable to handle the huge amount of heat and force created by the rocket’s 33 Raptor engines.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently revealed that the company has built what he described as a “mega-steel pancake” to protect the launchpad. The plate combines with the water deluge system and is designed to “protect against the immense heat and force of [a] Starship launch,” according to Musk.

Below we can see the water pour forth during a recent test at SpaceX’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

New water deluge system to protect against the immense heat & force of Starship launch

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 28, 2023

SpaceX also shared a striking image capturing the moment the water blasts out, and offered a closer look at the system in action in slow motion.

Additional view of Starship flame deflector test

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 28, 2023

After the Starship exploded in midair due to an unexpected anomaly during its maiden flight, SpaceX is keen to send its rocket skyward on its second test flight in the coming months.

But following the recent test of the water deluge system, CNBC reported that SpaceX hasn’t yet obtained an environmental permit for sending industrial process wastewater into the area around the launchpad, in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act.

However, it’s not entirely clear if SpaceX actually needs the permit, as it would depend on the nature and amount of pollutants that mix with the water from the rocket as it lifts off, and where that water ends up.

“The determination of whether a discharge permit is needed is the responsibility of the business owner based on how they plan to manage wastewater,” the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told CNBC.

Whether this is going to be an issue that delays the next launch of the Starship remains to be seen. But SpaceX is also waiting for a nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which grounded Starship following April’s test while it carries out an investigation into the failed test flight.

In a further complication, the FAA itself is facing a lawsuit linked to its environmental review of SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site, with environmental and cultural-heritage nonprofits in May accusing the FAA of failing to properly evaluate the environmental effects of SpaceX’s operations in the area, which is close to protected wetlands.

Once fully tested, the Starship could transport crews and cargo to the moon and even Mars.

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Trevor Mogg
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