SpaceX rocket wreaks $40K worth of camera gear

SpaceX’s Starship launched in April after the rocket exploded during a test launch. However, even before its fiery end, Starship wreaked havoc on one photographer, leaving him with a massive bill for damaged camera gear.

Scott Schilke

Scott Schilke is a rocket launch photographer for the Spacenews website. He also has his own Twitter account. In addition to rocket launches, Schilke posts storm chasing and lightning videos and photographs. Over the past six years, he has photographed over 150 launches across the U.S.

What went wrong?

Schilke had set up nine cameras to record the Starship launch. However, six of these were destroyed when the concrete launch pad broke up in the blast of Starship’s engines. In an interview with NBC2, Schilke said: “It turned out Elon was wrong that the concrete could handle one more launch without any protection.” This isn’t surprising, given that Starship produced around 12 million pounds of thrust. On Twitter, Schilke also described how chunks of concrete the size of bowling bowls destroyed one of his GoPro cameras.


NBC2 reported that Schilke lost around $40,000 worth of camera gear. At the time of writing, some of his cameras are still missing. On Twitter, Schilke also posted some photos of his damaged GoPro 8 and 7 cameras, along with a plea to GoPro to help him replace his lost gear.

Launch footage

It wasn’t all bad news for Schilke, however. Although he lost a lot of his camera gear, some of the footage survived. Schilke also told NBC2 that “Even though the GoPro’s destroyed, I did get the SD card out of it and it’s pretty amazing footage.” Schilke has posted the video on his Twitter account. The clip shows a massive smoke cloud approaching the camera after Starship’s engines are ignited. Large pieces of debris then bounce across the scene before the camera is knocked over.

What we think

Scott Schilke has managed to capture some amazing images of rocket launches over the past six years. However, the destruction meted out by the Starship launch shows how high-risk this hobby can be. In addition, Schilke wasn’t the only photographer who had gear damaged by the rocket. One Reddit user shared images of their badly damaged Nikon cameras and lenses. The moral of the story is to make sure your gear’s insurance premiums are paid up.

Feature image courtesy: Scott Schilke

Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.

Related Content