On Sunday evening, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared drone video footage of SpaceX's Starbase Starship launch tower located at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, shown below. The 400-foot-tall launch tower is equipped with giant clamp-like robotic arms, nicknamed 'Mechazilla', designed to stack the 160-foot-tall Starship atop the 230-foot-tall Super Heavy rocket. It will also ‘catch’ the stainless-steel vehicles as each descends to the launch pad, soon after propelling the payload to orbit. Mechazilla will enable the company to recover the launch vehicle quickly to relaunch it in under an hour.
Starship launch & catch tower pic.twitter.com/5mLIQwwu0k— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 9, 2022
SpaceX teams in Texas are preparing to perform a debut orbital flight test. For the past six months, engineers have been performing pre-flight testing on Starship SN20 and Super Heavy Booster 4 prototypes that will attempt the ambitious flight. It looks like Mechazilla is ready to support the mission. Even though Mechazilla will not be catching any spacecraft during the upcoming test flight, we will soon see the launch tower robotic arms in action - when SpaceX stacks SN20 atop Booster 4. SpaceX is waiting to receive approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform the debut Starship orbital flight that will lift off from South Texas and land in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. The FAA said it aims to complete an environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site by February 28. Then the company will be able to apply for an orbital flight license.
Now at the top of their travel, the Catching Arms have reached the necessary height to stack a Ship on top of Booster.— LabPadre (@LabPadre) January 9, 2022
A full stack can't come soon enough @elonmusk #Starship #SpaceX #Starship #Texas pic.twitter.com/nMMcT8KxXt
This week, SpaceX appeared to be testing the mechanical movement of the launch tower arms. Local Boca Chica photographers captured images of the robotic claws opening and closing. And this morning the arms were moved up and down and to the very top of the 400-foot-tall launch tower. SpaceX has not yet released an official animation to demonstrate how the launch tower will stack and catch Starship and Super Heavy. However, a digital artist, @ErcXspace via Twitter, shared an awesome depiction of how Mechazilla might operate, video shown below. Elon Musk even liked his video animation last year, stating that the animation is "Very close to real! Arms are able to move during descent to match exact booster position," he commented under the video and provided more details of the mechanism design, "Catch point is off to side, in case catch fails – don’t want to hit launch mount. Booster is transferred back to launch mount for next flight. Designed to have <1 hour turnaround," Musk said.
Very close to real! Arms are able to move during descent to match exact booster position.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2021
Catch point is off to side, in case catch fails – don’t want to hit launch mount.
Booster is transferred back to launch mount for next flight.
Designed to have <1 hour turnaround.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Founder Elon Musk via Twitter.
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.