SpaceX Is Building Starship's Orbital Launch Tower Ahead Of Potential Test Flight To Orbit This Summer

SpaceX Is Building Starship's Orbital Launch Tower Ahead Of Potential Test Flight To Orbit This Summer

Featured Image Source: / @JaneidyEve via Twitter

SpaceX is building the first prototype of the giant Super Heavy rocket booster that will propel Starship to orbit at Starbase, located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. 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 –that’s 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 as it descends from space 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. Using the launch tower to catch the rocket “saves mass and cost of legs… enables immediate repositioning of booster on to launch mount […],” he stated.

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SpaceX is already building Starship’s orbital launch tower ahead of a potential test flight to orbit this summer. A TESMANIAN correspondent recently visited the launch site, the image shown above is Starship SN15 next to the foundation piece of the orbital launch tower (right side). A Boca Chica resident in South Texas shared on Friday morning via Twitter that teams transported segments of the orbital tower, pictured below. Musk previously said that the launch tower will feature an arm that will ‘catch’ Super Heavy, 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,” Musk explained. The company has not released an official render of how the booster will be caught.

According to a recent 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 orbital launch tower is under construction as teams simultaneously build the next Starship prototypes that will soar into Boca Chica beach’s sky. Starship SN15 is at the launch pad undergoing inspection for a potential second flight, Starship SN16 and SN17 are under assembly at the Starbase rocket factory down the road. Local Boca Chica residents report seeing sections of Starship SN20 and booster BN3 under assembly, which is expected to be the first Starship test launch vehicle that will fly to space. “I’m highly confident that we will have reached orbit many times with Starship before 2023. And that it will be safe enough for human transport by 2023. It’s looking very promising,” Musk said earlier this year.

SpaceX plans an ambitious first Starship flight to orbit. A Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC) filing outlines SpaceX plans to fly Starship from South Texas to Hawaii during the first orbital flight! “The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore,” SpaceX told the FCC in the filing document, “The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km (~62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai [Hawaii] in a soft ocean landing.”

Featured Image Source: @JaneidyEve via Twitter

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn 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.

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