SpaceX Works Around The Clock On Starship Orbital Launch Tower

SpaceX Works Around The Clock On Starship Orbital Launch Tower

Featured Image Source: / @JaneidyEve via Twitter

SpaceX is working around the clock to prepare Starship’s orbital launch tower at the Starbase facility in South Texas. On Monday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared a video clip of the launch site where teams are working to develop the spacecraft that will one day enable humans to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The 400-foot-tall launch tower will be equipped with a giant set of metal robotic arms designed to ‘catch’ the giant Super Heavy rocket and Starship vehicles soon after launching payload to orbit, each would conduct a propulsive descent down to the launch pad and be caught by Mechazilla in order to be reused. “The Starship launch tower that catches the giant rocket booster is basically Mechazilla,” Musk said in April. A reference to the ‘Mechagodzilla’ character from the Godzilla film franchise.

The launch tower will feature a several sets of arms, SpaceX already installed a Quick Disconnect (QD) arm to the launch tower that is designed to hold the launch vehicle safely at the mount to load propellant and undergo pre-flight testing. A TESMANIAN correspondent visited Boca Chica on Sunday night and took photographs of the first claw-like arm that SpaceX installed, shown below. Starship SN20 is also undergoing preflight preparations at the launch pad.

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Engineers will soon install a much larger claw-like structure that is designed to catch the rocket and spacecraft. The prefabricated Mechazilla arm is already at the launch pad undergoing preparation to be lifted up for installation. Local resident, Starship Gazer, captured a video of the massive steel Mechazilla arms being lifted up with a giant crane, linked below. “SpaceX will try to catch largest ever flying object with robot chopsticks,” Musk said last month, “Success is not guaranteed, but excitement is!” The robotic arm mechanism is expected to undergo testing sometime next year. Catching the 230-foot-tall booster will enable fast reusability. “Starship booster […] will be caught out of sky by launch tower. Big step forward, as reflight can be done in under an hour,” Musk said via Twitter. Mechazilla will be capable of placing the rocket back into position onto the launch pad, that could help SpaceX reuse rockets faster than ever. The fastest turnaround time for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is 27 days, engineers aim to reuse Starship at least three times per day.



The company does not plan to catch the vehicle during the debut orbital flight test, both spacecraft stages will land in the ocean during the first fully-stacked launch attempt. Super Heavy Booster 4 will liftoff from Boca Chica, Texas, to propel Starship prototype SN20 to orbit. Booster 4 will not be caught by Mechazilla on the first try, Musk said they will attempt to catch the next prototype in the series, “Hopefully first try with Booster 5,” he said in August. Starship SN20 will orbit the Earth and quickly reenter the atmosphere to soft-land off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii, near a military base. It is still unknown when SpaceX will conduct its first orbital flight because the company is still pending regulatory approval and the completion of an environmental assessment from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to a new NASA document, the agency will assess Starship’s Starbrick heat shield tiles during an orbital flight scheduled for NET (no earlier than) March 2022. Maybe that is the target timeframe for the first orbital attempt, however, it has not been confirmed publicly by SpaceX officials. If the company does not obtain the necessary approval to perform a fully-stacked flight to orbit before this year ends, it is likely that SpaceX’s orbital flight will take place early next year. Read more: NASA Will Monitor SpaceX’s Starship ‘Starbrick’ Heatshield During Orbital Flight Test In 2022 

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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