Liquid nitrogen leaked onto wetlands around SpaceX launch pad before rocket test explosion, federal regulators confirm

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk next to SpaceX’s first orbital Starship SN20 is stacked atop its massive Super Heavy Booster 4 at the company’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas.JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

  • There was a liquid nitrogen leak at SpaceX’s Texas launch site, federal regulators told Bloomberg.

  • An aerial video shows patches of wetland that are snow-white from the liquid nitrogen leak.

  • The leak happened three days before SpaceX’s Starship booster prototype exploded, per Bloomberg.

Liquid nitrogen has leaked around SpaceX’s launch pad in South Texas, federal regulators confirmed to Bloomberg on Thursday.

Elon Musk’s aerospace company uses liquid nitrogen as fuel to get its rockets off the ground. The substance, which has a boiling point of around minus-196 degrees Celcius (minus-320 degrees Fahrenheit), can cause suffocation, cold burns, and frostbite, according to academic research.

A YouTube video uploaded by RGV Aerial Photography on Saturday shows patches of wetland that are snow-white from the liquid nitrogen which has discharged from one of SpaceX’s factories at the company’s Boca Chica launch site.

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Galveston office and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) confirmed the liquid nitrogen leak to Bloomberg.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is aware of the liquid nitrogen discharge that occurred fully within the boundaries of SpaceX property,” the agency wrote in a statement to Bloomberg. “The discharge did not impact TPWD property.”

Bloomberg reported that the leak happened three days before SpaceX’s Starship rocket booster prototype exploded at the launch site. After the incident, Musk tweeted: “Yeah, actually not good. Team is assessing damage.”

Previous rocket explosions have caused debris from the spacecraft to hurtle across nearby nature sanctuaries surrounding the launch pad, locals and environmental groups previously told Insider. They said the launches continue to damage the area and put endangered animals and other species at risk.

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider about the liquid nitrogen leak outside normal business hours.

Insider previously reported that SpaceX wants to launch a Starship spacecraft, a fully reusable rocket, into orbit as soon as July. However, the company has not yet ticked off all the 75 actions required in an environmental review from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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