SpaceX Said It Destroyed Its Own Rocket Mid-Flight, But It Ended Up Torching a State Park — Here's What It Means for Elon Musk The billionaire founder and CEO wants to launch again within a few months — but it's unclear if that will happen.
An April 20 test launch of SpaceX's Starship — designed to transport both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond — didn't go as smoothly as the company might've hoped.
Although the rocket reached an altitude of 39 kilometers on the first major test flight from SpaceX's Boca Chica, Texas Starbase facility, the company said it was forced to blow the ship up in the sky to keep the public safe — which led to a 3.5-acre fire and debris spread over hundreds of acres of both company-owned and state land, Bloomberg reported.
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The fire on state park land south of the launchpad was extinguished. But the launchpad itself had been destroyed by the explosion, resulting in a "plume of pulverized concrete" that sent debris as far as 6.5 miles northwest of the pad site, the Texas division of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday in an emailed statement.
Naturally, the catastrophe could complicate things for SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, who aims to launch Starship again soon. "Congrats SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship! Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months," Musk tweeted after the launch.
Federal law currently makes it easy for commercial SpaceX companies to operate, but a threat to the public could change that, per Bloomberg. At the very least, SpaceX will have to fix the launch site before another attempt.
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The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, and, per a prior agreement, SpaceX must complete a post-launch survey of vegetation and wildlife and clear debris from at-risk habitats.