SpaceX‘s Starship launch this past April was a big success. Yes, the rocket ship exploded, which at the time was the focus of most criticism. But, as experts have explained, that was a planned part of Elon Musk’s highly-subsidized space exploration company’s milestone achievement.
The real failure of SpaceX’s Starship, however, is now coming fully to light in the months following the launch.
According to a new report by Bloomberg, the Starship launch left behind devastating destruction to the local environment, as reported by U.S. Wildlife officials following an investigation of the site shortly after the launch. These reports by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists were obtained by the news outlet via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Wildlife officials note that upon surveying the scene after Starship’s launch, they found chunks of concrete across the area and foot-deep craters on the tidal flats. The report states that four acres of the nearby Texas state park were burned. A group of blue land crabs and seven bobwhite quail eggs were “incinerated” by the launch.
Overall, the explosion from the launch “left a 385-acre debris field that flung concrete chunks as far as 2,680 feet from the launchpad and sparked a 3.5-acre fire.”
There had been concern for years about the proximity of SpaceX’s rocket base to endangered species, including a loggerhead sea turtles nesting beach. A group of environmental groups sued the FAA following SpaceX’s April launch, claiming the agency failed to perform an adequate environmental review. As for the harmed species, U.S. wildlife biologists did not find any deceased endangered animal life.
However, biologists note that their investigation into this matter was greatly hindered by SpaceX. Wildlife officials were not allowed into the site area until a whole 48 hours after Starship’s launch. This means that any possible animal life that was killed could’ve been previously removed from the site, washed away by the currents, or eaten by other animals before experts could properly document the aftermath.
Much of the damage was caused by a purposeful decision from SpaceX that seemingly baffled experts in the documents. SpaceX did not use flame-suppression technology like a flame diverter or flame trench, a standard in the industry that redirects energy away from the rocket ship. Without it, Starship blew a hole in the ground underneath it, subsequently destroying its launchpad.
The FAA is currently reviewing an investigation into the launch and has temporarily grounded further attempts. But one Wildlife official noted in the documents that it’s likely SpaceX won’t be ready for another launch anytime soon.
“Pad site was totally destroyed and will likely force them to re-design the whole thing,” the official wrote. “Probably won’t see another launch for a while.”