SpaceX is working to develop a fully-reusable Starship launch system, capable of reflight in under an hour. The two-stage vehicle consists of the spacecraft and a powerful Super Heavy rocket that propels it to orbit. SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rocket with landing legs to reuse. It does not plan to land Starship on terra firma, instead, it will ‘catch’ the Starship and rocket with a launch tower equipped with robotic arms. The launch tower, nicknamed ‘Mechazilla,’ is also designed to stack the 160-foot-tall Starship atop the 230-foot-tall Super Heavy rocket.
Frank & Beans pic.twitter.com/xJfuW6HKs4— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 20, 2022
On Wednesday evening, SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk shared a video showing of the Starbase launch tower and also a render of how the Starship launch tower will ‘catch’ the gigantic Super Heavy rocket. –“Maybe something like this,” he captioned the video animation that shows a set of graphs with body acceleration and altitude parameters as Super Heavy descends on to the launch tower’s robotic arms. In the video render shown below, the claw-like arms are designed to ‘catch’ the rocket with “with load points just below the grid fins” and “shock absorption is built into tower arms,” Musk previously said. The grid fins are the four steel structures attached to the top of the booster which are used to steer the vehicle as it descends. In the future, SpaceX plans to convert old oil rigs into a Super Heavy-class spaceport at sea. They will build launch towers on top of the deepwater oil rigs to perform frequent spaceflights offshore. The company already bought two oil rigs for that purpose and named them after Mars moon's, 'Phobos' and 'Deimos.'
Maybe something like this pic.twitter.com/PUBLdaewt8— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 20, 2022
SpaceX will begin the most exciting part of Starship’s development this year, which consists of launching the vehicle to orbit and back. Engineers are preparing to perform the first orbital flight test during which they will use a Super Heavy rocket prototype, Booster 4, to propel Starship SN20 to orbit for the first time. Booster 4 will ignite its 29 methane-fueled Raptor engines to lift off from the Starbase launch site in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, to propel Starship SN20 to orbit. The booster will land in the Gulf of Mexico ocean and SN20 will splashdown off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Even though SpaceX will not attempt to catch the vehicles with the launch tower during the first orbital flight, we will see ‘Mechazilla’ come to life when it stacks the vehicles before the debut orbital flight attempt. Musk previously said that they won’t attempt to catch the booster until the next test flights. The company aims to test at least a dozen Starships this year. The first orbital flight attempt will take place after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completes an environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site by the end of February. It is unclear how long it will take SpaceX to obtain a flight license soon after.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX 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.