SpaceX Initiates The New Year Strong, Engineers ‘Flex’ Starship Launch Tower Mechazilla Arms At Boca Chica

SpaceX Initiates The New Year Strong, Engineers ‘Flex’ Starship Launch Tower Mechazilla Arms At Boca Chica

Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter 

SpaceX engineers initiated the new year strong, Starship launch tower’s ‘Mechazilla’ arms 'flexed' (moved) during mechanical testing. They returned to work at the Boca Chica launch site just a day after the New Year’s celebration to prepare for Starship’s first orbital flight test. Engineering crews started to test the Starship orbital launch tower robotic arms on Sunday night. The clamp-like arms are nicknamed ‘Mechazilla’ by SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and are designed to stack Starship atop the gigantic Super Heavy rocket, as well as ‘catch’ the launch vehicle(s) soon after propelling payload to orbit. When fully-stacked the rocket-ship stands 394-feet-high – that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty! The launch tower is 469-feet-tall and will have a 10-feet lightning rod, according to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) filing by the company. A local Boca Chica resident, LabPadre, shared a video of the robotic arms moving up-and-down on January 2 at around 10:30 p.m. Central Time (shown below).

“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,” Musk said last year. “Ideal scenario imo [in my opinion] is catching Starship in horizontal ‘glide’ with no landing burn, although that is quite a challenge for the tower! Next best is catching with tower, with emergency pad landing mode on skirt (no legs),” he added. “Just one skyscraper catching another,” Musk joked. The Super Heavy booster will be caught 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,” he explained. 

On Tuesday, January 4, SpaceX continued to flex the Mechazilla arms. NASASpaceflight shared a daytime time-lapse video clip of the robotic arms movement, linked below. According to local sources, teams working at the launch pad have been working on the launch tower all day in what appears to be a test of the giant chopstick-like arm mechanism. The crews even fully-flexed the robotic claws by opening and closing them, local photographers captured the moment the claws were fully opened (pictured below). 


The robotic arm testing comes after engineers conducted the fourth static-firing of prototype Starship SN20’s six Raptor engines on December 29. SpaceX targets to conduct the first orbital flight when the FAA completes the Boca Chica launch site environmental assessment and grants a launch license, which could happen as soon as March or April. SpaceX has enough time to ensure the launch tower works properly, we could soon see Mechazilla in action when it stacks Starship SN20 atop Super Heavy Booster 4. The first (and only) time SpaceX Stacked Starship it used a gigantic crane because the launch tower was not completed. This year, Musk said the company plans to conduct at least 'a dozen' Starship flight tests to rapidly advance the launch system's development. 


Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via YouTube & Twitter 

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

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.

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