Elon Musk, the CEO jobs of SpaceX, has provided a closer look at the apparatus that will be used to launch – and, more intriguingly, catch – its next-generation Super Heavy rocket.
The top of the launch-and-landing tower, as well as the clamp-like arms that will catch the first-stage booster when it comes into land after deploying the second-stage Starship to space, can be seen in what appears to be a drone video tweeted by Musk on Sunday.
Having caught the booster, SpaceX will be able to reuse the vehicle, following in the footsteps of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 boosters, which have been reused in multiple missions in recent years.
C-bass Production’s animation jobs from the end of last year give a better idea of how Super Heavy is expected to launch and land once the system is fully developed.
The plan, as shown in the video, is for the Super Heavy booster to return to a specific location between two clamps, which will then close up and stabilize the rocket before it reaches the ground. The clamps would then slide down the launch tower, gently lowering the rocket back to earth.
Musk announced the plan to catch Super Heavy in late 2020, claiming that the procedure would save the company money on building landing legs for the rocket. The removal of the legs would also reduce the weight of the booster, resulting in less fuel and/or larger payloads.
He went on to say that returning the booster to the launch tower would mean that the vehicle could be ready for another flight “in under an hour.”
SpaceX is currently awaiting FAA approval to conduct the first test flight of Super Heavy and Starship — collectively known as Starship — from its Boca Chica, Texas base.
Following a recent delay in the permit process, the FAA’s decision is now expected by the end of February, paving the way for a March launch. The tower in Musk’s video, however, will not attempt to catch the Super Heavy on its maiden flight because landing technology is still in development. The booster will instead crash land in the Gulf of Mexico.
Super Heavy will be powered by 31 Raptor engines and, once launched, will be the most powerful rocket ever in terms of thrust, surpassing Saturn V, which launched NASA jobs and astronauts to the moon five decades ago.
The second-stage Starship, which has already been tested in a series of high-altitude flights on its own, will use six Raptor engines for missions that could one day take astronauts to the moon, Mars, and beyond.