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SpaceX Plans To Catch Starship's Super Heavy Rocket Booster & Is Hiring To Develop It

SpaceX Plans To Catch Starship's Super Heavy Rocket Booster & Is Hiring To Develop It

Featured Image Source: Starship Super Heavy Illustration by @ErcXspace via Twitter

SpaceX is ambitiously developing the Starship launch vehicle to enable astronauts to build a base on the lunar surface and colonize Mars. The spacecraft is under development in South Texas at Boca Chica Beach. Starship will be a gigantic two-stage launch vehicle that will use a powerful Super Heavy rocket booster. The 230-feet-tall rocket will propel the spacecraft to orbit powered by 28 Raptor engines. The Raptor is a full-flow staged combustion engine designed by SpaceX, fueled by cryogenic methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellants. Super Heavy will propel Starship to low Earth orbit and return from space to be reused. Initially, SpaceX engineers planned to land the booster like the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, which features retractable landing legs. The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk shared in December he changed the booster’s design - it will not feature landing legs anymore, SpaceX now plans to ‘catch’ the booster instead of landing it on the ground.

The company is hiring to develop the launch tower system to ‘catch’ Super Heavy. A new job application at SpaceX’s website states they are searching for a Vehicle Systems Software Engineer to develop “integrated operations and automation for suborbital and orbital launch missions of Starship and Super Heavy Booster product lines,” the application states, “Responsibilities include the over-arching conceptual operation as well as its implementation in automation that satisfies requirements and constraints of integrated vehicle and pad systems.” The application lists examples of what the engineers will work on, “projects include developing operations and associated automation to support Super Heavy launch/catch tower, vehicle commodity load, vehicle-pad interface systems, rapid launch recycle capability,” it reads. To apply for this job position visit SpaceX.com/careers

“We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load,” Musk said. Which suggests that Super Heavy will also feature grid fins like the Falcon 9 rocket; four grid fins are located at top to control the vehicles orientation upon returning from space to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. Super Heavy will use its Raptor engines to perform a propulsive descent, but without landing legs, the booster will utilize its integrated grid fins to be ‘cached’ by the launch tower. (An example of how the booster recovery could work is pictured above. SpaceX has not released official diagrams of how the 'grid fin catch' will work.)

SpaceX aims to develop a fully reusable Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle, capable of performing multiple flights per day. Musk shared that not adding landing legs to the Super Heavy rocket “Saves mass & cost of legs & enables immediate repositioning of booster on to launch mount — ready to refly in under an hour,” he wrote via Twitter in December. When asked if the decision to eliminate the legs is due to the high stress the vehicle would experience upon landing Musk responded, “Legs would certainly work, but best part is no part, best step is no step.” 

*Author's note: Thanks for supporting TESMANIAN! Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Featured Image Source: Starship Super Heavy Illustration by @ErcXspace 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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