Brilliant. But he has had at least two years to put in the flame trenches, as he mentioned it in 2020 as possibly being a mistake (paraphrase).Pishwish wrote: ↑Sat Apr 22, 2023 4:21 pmChris Hadfield offers some perspective. I still wouldn't call it a success, but how can you not be impressed by the maiden launch of what is by far the most powerful rocket ever built? Obviously we will have to wait a while before we know all the facts, but the most likely cause seems to be engine loss due to debris from pad damage. It seems that SpaceX intended to put a water-cooled plate under the launch mount, but thought that the concrete would withstand a single launch. It may be that the rocket took longer to get of the pad than expected, exposing the concrete to more forces, but I really don't think that the static fire was an adequate means of determining resilience. As for stage separation, it is unlikely that that was attempted because the flight control system would have to hit speed and altitude targets, because the engines were still running, and because you can't always rely on the launch commentary to be accurate, it is to some extent scripted.
I have seen claims that installing flame trenches would take 2-3 years (and as much as 7) due to environmental permitting. A deluge system would presumably require some permitting too. I think that Boca Chica is a test/development site, so maybe that's why SpaceX were looking at simpler solutions. As the launch mount took a beating, and some of the storage tanks took some hits, it will probably take more than a couple of months before the next launch at Boca Chica.
Even if a subsequent test launch is successful, SpaceX still has to carry out many more launches to gain confidence in novel technologies/procedures. Will the heat shields work? can the booster and Starship prove reliable enough to be crew-rated?, will the chopsticks catch each rocket?, will low-Earth orbit fuel transfer work? can the rockets be refurbished/refueled fast enough to suit the mission plans?
He also learned less than he would have done from a proper set of testing to show that the flame trench was needed (which observers had already spotted and told him).
He got away lightly. Given the damage to the launch pad and the range the debris flew, there could have been a severe incident. And there's plenty of evidence that Musk is very keen to take risks with other people's wealth, property and health.
It looks like he decided to launch on 4/20 (given the cultural implications), rather than when the launch system was ready.