SpaceX's Mechazilla Is Alive! Starship Orbital Launch Tower Arms Move For The First Time

by Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo October 28, 2021

SpaceX's Mechazilla Is Alive! Starship Orbital Launch Tower Arms Move For The First Time

Featured Image Source: Evelyn J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter

SpaceX’s Mechazilla is alive! Engineers working at Starbase on the 400-foot-tall Starship orbital launch tower moved the robotic arms for the first time on Thursday morning. Called ‘Mechazilla’ by SpaceX Founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk, the giant claw-like steel structure is designed to ‘catch’ the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket as it conducts a propulsive descent. The arms attached to the tower will enable the company to develop a reusable launch system capable of flying multiple times per day. “SpaceX will try to catch largest ever flying object with robot chopsticks,” Musk said last month, “Success is not guaranteed, but excitement is!” NASASpaceflight operates a set of Live cameras that captured footage of the Mechazilla arms moving for the first time.

A TESMANIAN correspondent (@JaneidyEve) recently visited the Starbase facility to capture photos of SpaceX’s orbital launch tower and the prototypes – Starship SN20 and Super Heavy Booster 4 – that are undergoing preparation for the first orbital flight test attempt, pictured below. “If all goes well, Starship will be ready for its first orbital launch attempt next month, pending regulatory approval,” Musk announced on October 22nd. The aerospace company needs approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which monitors and controls air traffic. The FAA is currently conducting an environmental assessment of SpaceX’s Starbase facility to ensure safe spaceflight operations in the Boca Chica Village region. SpaceX will obtain a flight license when the FAA ensures safe operations can take place from the sandy beach.

Starship SN20 and Super Heavy Booster 4 at Starbase Launchpad in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. 

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If the Administration approves, we could see the first fully-stacked Starship/Super Heavy launch to orbit from South Texas and land off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, sometime before this year ends. However, SpaceX does not plan to test Mechazilla’s catching capabilities during the first orbital flight. Musk previously said they would attempt it until Booster 5, the next prototype that will undergo testing.

Engineers already started the orbital Starship vehicle’s pre-flight test campaign. Last week they performed a series of proof tests and static-fire testsof the spacecraft’s R-Vac, vacuum-optimized Raptor engines, designed for propulsion in space. They are rapidly working to conduct more pre-flight testing to ensure the stainless-steel vehicle is ready to fly out of Earth for the first time. Starship SN20 will attempt to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and SpaceX will assess how the ‘Starbricks’ heat shield withstands the extreme temperatures as it descends at high-speeds towards the Hawaiian Coast.


SpaceX is working on a very tight schedule, it runs 24/7 shifts to develop Starship before the year 2023 - when Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa plans to be the first Starship passenger to go on a journey around the Moon. NASA also hopes to land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024. The agency awarded SpaceX a Human Landing System (HLS) contract to develop a lunar-optimized Starship to land astronauts on our closest celestial neighbor.

Featured Image Source: / photographer Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter




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