SpaceX tested the Starship’s “colossal steel pancakes” water immersion system

SpaceX tested the Starship's "colossal steel pancakes" water immersion system

SpaceX conducted a full pressure test of a new water immersion system for its Starship launch vehicle on Friday, as the company looks to solve one of the biggest problems that has come up during orbit. Flight test in April.

It is a major step towards getting the launch infrastructure ready to support a second test flight of the world’s most powerful rocket. During the previous test flight, the heat and power from the Super Heavy 33 Raptor’s engine dented the launch pad’s crater and generated chunks of concrete that severely damaged the orbital launch pad.

SpaceX’s answer is what CEO Elon Musk has called “a giant pie of steel.” The water deluge system consisted of a very thick perforated steel plate placed directly under the rocket and several huge water jets that continually cooled it with water, even while it was bombarded with flames from the rocket engine.

It’s not clear exactly how much water is dispensed during a full-pressure spray, but a 23-second video of the test posted to the X by Musk suggests it’s quite a lot. CNBC reported On Friday, shortly after the test, SpaceX did not apply for an environmental permit to dispose of wastewater from industrial processes as required by the US Clean Water Act.

However, it is unclear if SpaceX would even need such a permit. The big question is whether pollutants, such as chemicals, will mix into the water as they are sprayed onto the rocket. If the answer is yes, then SpaceX will need some process to get rid of that water and not just let it run off into the surrounding wetlands.

A representative from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) told CNBC that whether a discharge permit is needed “is the responsibility of the business owner based on how they plan to manage wastewater.” But on a separate line, the representative added that the agency is evaluating the new immersion regime to see if there are any environmental regulations in place.

SpaceX doesn’t seem very interested in this assessment. Now that the steel plate is installed, the company is one step closer to performing pre-launch testing on Booster 9, the Super Heavy prototype that will fly during the next test.

Of course, the timing of the spacecraft’s upcoming flight test isn’t entirely up to SpaceX. The company must receive the go-ahead from the US Federal Aviation Administration, the regulator with authority over all rocket launches, which grounded the spacecraft after the last test resulted in the rocket exploding in mid-air. Grounding the rocket was entirely expected and routine given the way the test ended, but SpaceX still needs regulatory approval before the next flight test.

SpaceX is also a co-defendant, with the FAA, in a lawsuit over the agency’s environmental audit of Starbase and the Starship launch program. that suit, Submitted by environmental and indigenous groups in May, claims that the FAA has failed to fully consider the environmental impacts of SpaceX’s activity in the region. While this lawsuit is still in its early stages, it could threaten to keep Starship on Earth for years.

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