The recent explosion of SpaceX’s Starship rocket in midair over the Gulf of Mexico gained the public’s attention, but the launch’s explosive nature at ground level is under scrutiny from the government. The force of the launch in South Texas sent a cloud of pulverized concrete raining over a small nearby town, raised questions about the environmental impact of launch operations at the site, and caused damage to the launch pad itself.
Environmentalists are urging a more in-depth study of potential hazards to public safety and wildlife before further Starship launches take place. NASA is counting on Starship as a major component of its Artemis program, aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in the next few years as a stepping stone to eventual human exploration of Mars. Despite the outcome, SpaceX hailed the mission as a qualified success and a valuable source of data for further development of the spacecraft. The FAA granted SpaceX a license to launch the Starship, and it has opened a “mishap” investigation to determine the root cause of any failures and take corrective action.
SpaceX plans to install a water-cooling system and steel foundation for the next launch of the rocket, the most powerful ever built. Environmentalists believe that reopening the SpaceX facility to a full-scale environmental review would set back Starship development and complicate NASA’s Artemis timeline, as well as the anticipated use of the spacecraft for Pentagon and commercial missions.
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