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While Starship took to the skies on its maiden flight, the slow build of power started to devastate the launch pad (or Stage Zero as SpaceX refers to it) and surrounding area with debris. Though currently unconfirmed, debris may have struck the bottom of the Super Heavy Booster, causing it to lose engines right at liftoff.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-starship-launch-pad-damage/amp/

This suggests that the anomalous behaviour was visible even before the ship lifted off. Wouldn't this sort of thing be grounds for a shut down and scrub?

Was it because it happened so quickly, or because they saw no benefit in delaying the launch (i.e. the damage is already done, why not make the best of it)?

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    $\begingroup$ "The s suggests that the anomalous behaviour was visible even before the ship lifted off." Have you seen the video of the launch? They didn't see nuthin. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 22, 2023 at 8:13

2 Answers 2

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Wouldn't this sort of thing be grounds for a shut down and scrub?

To what end?

  1. An 8 million pound pipe bomb sitting on a damaged launch pad, right next to six other giant pipe bombs (the LOX and methane ground storage tanks) is Pretty Effing Dangerous. Much better to get that 8 million pound pipe bomb far away!!
  2. The damage had already been done. The purpose of the launch was to learn things about the ship and it's design. Shutting it down soon after ignition would not have taught them anything other than that now there's an 8 million pound pipe bomb sitting on a damaged launch pad.

By proceeding with the launch, now they know that not only is there a big hole under the OLM (Orbital Launch Mount), but what happens when it flies with such damage...

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    $\begingroup$ Not just a "8 million pound pipe bomb sitting on a damaged launch pad", but also not secured any more by bolts which had already been retracted. And no pipes connected to get rid of the fuel. $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Apr 22, 2023 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ See also: Mercury-Redstone 1, where early engine shutdown left a 66,000-pound pipe bomb sitting on the launch pad. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Apr 22, 2023 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Yes, that was the success story. Check out the N-1 for what else can happen when a big rocket shuts down at liftoff. ;-) An old STS adage can be applied here as well: Once the launch mount starts falling apart, it's not about whether you're going, but how much of Texas is going with you. $\endgroup$
    – TooTea
    Apr 24, 2023 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @TooTea Texas?? $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2023 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ @TooTea you're right. Distracted by the STS thing. Apologies. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2023 at 12:00
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Any abort that could have happened at that time would have had to be automatic. We know from the static fire that having all engines fire wasn't required, 1 or 2 could easily not fire and the test would go on.

The question is, how would they have measured that strike? We know that at most 3 engines failed prior to liftoff (And it might have been later in flight). The criteria allows for such liftoffs.

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