Then, there are the large pieces of scrap from the explosion of Starship itself over the Gulf of Mexico, which began washing ashore along the region’s many beaches hours after launch. Boca Chica beach and a section of State Highway 4 were shut down for clean-up efforts between Thursday and Friday. At least one SpaceX fan picked up what appeared to be a chunk of heat shield tile on South Padre Island Beach. “I have talked directly with SpaceX and they asked me where I found it and approximately what time...They did not request the tile back,” Joe Tegtmeyer wrote in a tweet on his finding.


SpaceX Recovery issued a notice to locals on Thursday, amid multiple concerned reports:

If you believe you have identified a piece of debris, please do not attempt to handle or retrieve the debris directly. Instead, please contact the SpaceX Debris Hotline at 1-866-623-0234 to report debris or damage. Please leave your name, number and a brief description of what you have discovered and where....We are unable to respond to every message received, but our teams will reach out as appropriate.

If you have concerns about an immediate hazard, please contact your local law enforcement agency.


The fallout from the Starship launch and explosion likely hasn’t just impacted people. For wildlife such as endangered shorebirds and ocelots, the incident also almost certainly caused disruption. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife report from last year determined that SpaceX’s smaller tests, launches, and activities at Boca Chica had significantly reduced bird populations at the critical coastal habitat. Nonetheless, the company was able to fly through environmental review without an in-depth impact statement.

Now, SpaceX will have to comply with some of the few environmental requirements mandated as part of its Federal Aviation Administration license. Namely, the company will have to remove debris from particularly sensitive habitat areas and conduct post-launch biological monitoring to assess the full extent of what occurred.


Until the full public safety and environmental consequences of Starship’s launch are better understood, the FAA has grounded the rocket. However, despite the extensive damage and new regulatory hoops, Musk has said Starship will be ready to go again soon. “Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months,” he wrote in a tweet where he also admitted that the rocket’s initial rushed timeline prevented SpaceX from installing the proper energy and heat suppression infrastructure to preserve the Launch Mount and prevent things like massive clouds of dust falling over towns full of people.


Indeed, It’s clear from this episode that SpaceX will need to fully install its “massive water-cooled steel plate,” as Musk describes it, prior to the next Starship launch, and possibly implement other suppression systems. At Kennedy Space Center, for example, NASA has a flame trench and a water deluge system for launching oversized rockets. That SpaceX chose to launch Starship without some kind of suppression system was clearly a big mistake—one that left the launch pad damaged and the local community having to clean up SpaceX’s mess.

Likely, Musk’s stated timeline for the next launch is overly optimistic.

Want to know more about Elon Musk’s space venture? Check out our full coverage of SpaceX’s Starship megarocket and the SpaceX Starlink internet satellite megaconstellation. And for more spaceflight in your life, follow us on Twitter and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.