Starship is going to be fueled with methane/oxygen cryogenic liquids. Prior to launch vehicle will spend some time fully loaded on the launchpad. Although methane is lighter than air at normal temperature, at - 161.5°C (boiling point of liquid methane) it's 30% denser than air. It has to be heated additional 30°C to become lighter again, which not going to happen fast. Therefore it's possible to buildup around the Starship in significant amount even if refrigeration is considered, sealing is never perfect and leakage can happen. Liquid methane expands 590 times. Considering it's lower and upper explosion limits with air are 5.3-15.5%, ignition of the rocket can easily trigger a detonation. It may seam minuscule, but one cubic meter of gaseous air/methane (90/10) mixture is equivalent in explosion power to 190g TNT. How SpaceX plans to deal with this kind of explosion hazard around Starship?

  • $\begingroup$ slightly related: Rocket explosion compared to kT of TNT; has one ever knocked something over at a distance? $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 15 '20 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if build is actually possible or not, but like Space shuttle, used sparks, hydrogen ignitor system. Probably, similar technology can be used ! $\endgroup$ – Prakhar May 16 '20 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ But hydrogen is lighter than air in any case even at boiling temperature -252.8°C so it cannot buildup substantially around rocket. And you will need 4 times higher concentration of hydrogen per volume than methane to achieve same effect base on stoichiometric combustion. I find methane more dangerous. $\endgroup$ – WOW 6EQUJ5 May 16 '20 at 9:51

Boil-off of methane is piped to a Flare Stack and burned off so it won't be vented unburned into the atmosphere. You can see a good picture of the flarestack on the right in the image of Starhopper fueling below:

Starhopper fueling

(Image credit: NasaSpaceflight.com (bocachicagal)

  • $\begingroup$ Is this true for Starship tank venting and storage tank venting? It seems as if they would need to vent directly from the vehicle close to launch? $\endgroup$ – johnDanger 21 hours ago

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