The pad beneath SpaceX's Starship failed catastrophically, says a planetary scientist who has worked on launch pad research for NASA, and environmental activists claim this and the subsequent explosion of the vessel caused environmental damage to the surrounding area. Georgina Torbet:
The problem is that the disintegrated launch pad meant that the dirt beneath the concrete was eroded, too, throwing up large quantities of dust, which reportedly spread over several miles from the launch site. This dust can be a serious concern for nearby communities as it could potentially be harmful to human health and to the local environment. To address this issue, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that the team had previously discussed using a water-cooled steel plate to spread heat from the launch across the pad and prevent erosion of the concrete. By creating channels in a steel plate and pushing water through them, the heat from the engines could be spread out."In principle, that should be able to keep the steel from melting," Metzger said. The steel plate wasn't ready for the launch, however, so SpaceX decided to go ahead without it.