Mechazilla moves: SpaceX tests arms to catch Starship

The Starship landing tower differs significantly from previous structures of this type. In order to save a lot of weight on the spaceship itself, important components are relocated to the launch system. SpaceX has now extensively tested the tower, nicknamed “Mechazilla”.

SpaceX’s Starship project is testing tentacles for orbital flight

When SpaceX will make its first orbital flight with the largest and most powerful rocket in human history, Starship, is still not foreseeable – most recently, a delay of several months had to be accepted again. Until then, however, the company still has a lot of work to do. Because not only ship 20 and booster 4 have to be made fit for the flight, the launch system is also crucial for success.

In addition to the usual tasks such as fixing and refueling, the SpaceX launch tower has some tasks that other systems of this type do not have to take on. The company itself speaks of “level zero”, to which as many mechanisms as possible that are not necessarily required for takeoff and landing directly on the ship can be shifted. One of the savings: Although Starship is supposed to return to Earth, SpaceX has canceled the landing legs here.

The idea: Two arms are attached to the launch tower to catch both the booster and the upper stage from the air shortly before landing. In addition, these can be used as a crane system before launch to stack the rocket stages. After the corresponding gigantic structure was mounted on the launch system a long time ago, the arms that Elon Musk jokingly called “chopsticks” have now been subjected to a detailed test for the first time.

Open, close, up, down

Using a pulley system and rails on the tower, the arms moved up to the planned maximum height for the first time. The snap mechanism with opening and closing the arms was also tried out. The pivotal point here are relatively small holding points on the booster and upper level, which snap into the arms and are supposed to carry the entire weight. SpaceX had simulated this with a steel beam in the current test.

For the planned first orbital flight of ship 20 and booster 4, however, the catch mechanism will not yet be used, because after re-entry they should first test their engine-supported loading maneuver over the open ocean. Until Mechazilla really may grab, so it will take a while.

Launch, Spacex, Starship, Starbase, Mechazilla
Starship Gacer