Featured Image Source: Created by @ErcXspace via Twitter/not official SpaceX render
SpaceX started to develop the gigantic Super Heavy rocket booster that will propel the Starship spacecraft to space. The rocket will be the world’s most powerful rocket, equipped with 28 methane-fueled Raptor engines that will generate over 16 million pounds of thrust upon liftoff – which is over twice the thrust of the Saturn V rocket that launched NASA’s Apollo missions to the lunar surface. SpaceX plans to ‘catch’ the Super Heavy rocket after it launches Starship to orbit. Catching the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) booster will enable fast reusability. “Starship booster, largest flying object ever designed, will be caught out of sky by launch tower. Big step forward, as reflight can be done in under an hour,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on April 7. “Ideal scenario imo [in my opinion] is catching Starship in horizontal ‘glide’ with no landing burn, although that is quite a challenge for the tower! Next best is catching with tower, with emergency pad landing mode on skirt (no legs),” he added. “Just one skyscraper catching another,” Musk joked. However, he did mention that the Starship vehicle will need legs to land on the Moon and Mars. (April 9 -Edit: height was corrected from meters to feet.)
SpaceX’s plan to ‘catch’ the Super Heavy booster is mentioned in a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) filing. –“SpaceX is proposing a 469' [feet] tall launch tower with 10' [feet] lightning rod to lift its new rocket and booster on the launch mount, and to catch the super-heavy booster upon return from launch. The tower will be constructed out of structural steel trusses to allow the mechanical arms to lift vehicles,” the filing states. “This new structure will be located at SpaceX's Launch Site. The structure will be approx. 0.5 miles from the beach, and within 2800' of USFWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] property. Nearby airfields include the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.” The launch tower is already under construction at Boca Chica Beach, where the first prototypes of the spacecraft are undergoing testing. The company targets to conduct the first full-stack orbital flight test by July this year.
SpaceX has not released an official render about how the booster will be caught, the image above is a concept idea designed by a SpaceX fan, @ErcXspace. Musk said that the Super Heavy booster will be caught with “load points just below the grid fins” and “shock absorption is built into tower arms. Since tower is ground side, it can use a lot more mass to arrest booster downward momentum,” he described via Twitter. In December, he said that developing a method to catch the rocket instead of landing it, “Saves mass and cost of legs… enables immediate repositioning of booster on to launch mount –ready to refly in under an hour.”
Shock absorption is built into tower arms. Since tower is ground side, it can use a lot more mass to arrest booster downward momentum.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 8, 2021
Featured Image Source: Created by @ErcXspace via Twitter/not official SpaceX render.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.