|MadSci Network: Engineering|
Launch pads are designed to take the abuse of a rocket launch. Some minor damage is common, e.g., paint being burned away by the rocket exhaust. However, for a normal launch the launch pad will not be destroyed or even functionally damaged.
There are times when a launch does not go as planned. For example, a Sea Launch launch attempt recently resulted in the rocket blowing up on the pad. Some damage was done to the launch pad as a result though it did not affect many of the other systems such as the engines and hull integrity. Launch failures for other rockets over the years have resulted in a wide range of damage from minor to complete destruction of the launch pad.
The goal is to have the major systems of the launch pad such as the electronics in hardened sites as far away from the rocket as possible so that a catastrophic launch failure will not destroy them. In general these measures work well, and the amount of serious damage to a launch pad during a rocket explosion is normally quite limited now.
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