On Thursday, Elon Musk's SpaceX launched the most powerful rocket ever built: Starship. In traditional SpaceX fashion, the inaugural flight of Starship ended with a boom, or "rapid unscheduled disassembly," as it's more lightly referred to.
Despite the destruction in the air, there was also quite the show on the ground at Starbase. The launchpad was absolutely destroyed by Starship's powerful Super Heavy rocket. So much thrust was generated from the rocket's engines that the concrete pad was pretty much obliterated, sending chunks of rubble flying more than a quarter mile away and destroying a Dodge Caravan in the process.
In almost perfect synchrony, two major chunks of debris collide with the minivan. One particularly pesky rock contacts the hatch, caving in the D-Pillar. As soon as the impact happens, the minivan lurches forward due to the force of the collision. The rear-most windows are blown out, along with at least one of the taillights, and the liftgate is turned into nothing more than twisted metal.
A second less obvious chunk isn't seen impacting the van, but it is seen exiting through the front bumper along with an explosion of fluid (presumably coolant from the radiator). By the end of the video, a pool of liquid has amassed under the front of the car.
Several smaller pieces of debris make contact with the van during the launch. A few pieces even hit the expensive-looking gear mounted to the top of the van and nearby cameras set up to film the launch.
The Dodge was parked in a lot off of Boca Chica Boulevard, around 1,400 feet away from the launch pad. Despite being behind a wall and positioned more than a quarter mile away from the launch site, the van and other surrounding camera gear were clobbered by crumbled rock.
And that's not even the farthest that chucks of rock traveled. In another video posted by SpaceX, you can see chunks of concrete splashing far off into the waters of nearby Boca Chica beach. A quick check on Google Maps estimates that some of the debris was slung around 2,000 feet away from the launchpad.
Posts on Reddit and Twitter suggest that the minivan belongs to NASA Spaceflight and was left there to capture the launch of Starship. We reached out to confirm that, but have not heard back at the time of writing.
Fortunately, as far as we can tell, the van was unoccupied. All people are required to evacuate the area when a launch occurs due to the possibility of danger—debris or otherwise. That means that all of the cameras peppered around the lot are controlled remotely, and rightfully so, considering the huge chunks of stone that were sent flying at who-knows-how-fast-speeds managed to damage the van so catastrophically.
The Super Heavy rocket is not only SpaceX's most powerful rocket, but it's also the tallest, most powerful rocket the world has ever seen. The 33 main engines collectively generated just under 17 million pounds of thrust, around twice the output of NASA's SLS rocket used with the Artemis program. It's no wonder that a bit of carnage was seen at liftoff, given its impressive specs.
As for the Orbital Launch Mount—well, it looks like Starship did some excavating underneath it. The launch site's concrete slab was turned into rubble by the force of the rocket's engines and dug a crater. If only someone could have predicted that might happen.
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