Watch SpaceX Raptor engine fire plasma beam at water-cooled steel plate

SpaceX hopes the technology will prevent Starship from blasting another crater into the launch pad during its next flight test.
Chris Young
The Raptor engine firing at the water-cooled plate.
The Raptor engine firing at the water-cooled plate.

SpaceX / Twitter 

SpaceX recently tested a water-cooled steel plate it might place under the launch pad for future Starship flight tests.

The private space firm posted a video on social media, showing one of its Starship Raptor engines firing a plume of fiery plasma into the water-cooled plate.

SpaceX hopes the technology will prevent the creation of another massive crater at Starship's next launch.

SpaceX develops water-cooled plate to prevent Starship launch pad damage

Though SpaceX has stated it sees the first launch of the fully-stacked Starship as a success, skeptics have pointed to the cloud of potentially harmful debris when Starship was manually exploded, and the massive crater the Mars rocket carved out of the ground at launch.

Surely a decimated launch pad after every launch wouldn't be in keeping with SpaceX's plans for driving down costs with its reusable rocket?

Soon after the first flight test of Starship on April 20, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX was already working on a way to reduce the damage during future launches. The company was developing "a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount," Musk wrote.

Starship became the world's most powerful rocket when it took to the skies last month. The launch system's 33 first-stage Raptor engines produced about 17 million lbs of thrust at launch. As many pointed out after the launch, this immense power blasted a crater at SpaceX's Starbase launch facility in South Texas.

Watch SpaceX's water-cooled steel plate withstand Raptor engine plasma beam

Musk has since gone on record stating that work on the plate system started three months prior to the first test flight, but it wasn't ready in time for the April 20 launch. SpaceX went ahead with the test flight, having wrongly predicted that the launch pad would be able to withstand one liftoff.

Now, SpaceX has tweeted a video of a prototype plate being tested against the power of a single Raptor engine. The 20-second clip shows the plate, cooled by several jets of water during the test, seemingly withstanding the immense power of the Raptor engine.

"One hell of a plasma beam!" Musk wrote in a reply to the Twitter thread.

SpaceX recently sent one of its Starship upper-stage prototypes to a suborbital pad for a "static fire" engine test. The company hopes it will be able to perform another orbital launch attempt soon, though it will first have to gain clearance from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which is currently assessing the impact of the first launch.

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