Elon Musk Said That SpaceX Try To Catch Booster 7 On Their First Orbital Launch!
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Twelve months later, SpaceX has submitted an updated overview of Starship’s orbital launch debut in a new request for permission to use multiple Starlink dishes on both stages. While most of the document is the same, a few particular details have changed about Super Heavy’s role in the mission.
This time around, SpaceX says that the Super Heavy booster will “will separate[,] perform a partial return[,] and land in the Gulf of Mexico or return to Starbase and be caught by the launch tower.”
Prior to this document, SpaceX’s best-case plans for the first Super Heavy booster to launch never strayed from a controlled splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico – potentially demonstrating that it would be safe to attempt booster recovery on the next launch but all but guaranteeing that the first booster would be lost at sea.
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The launch tower and its three mobile arms will play a crucial role in all aspects of orbital Starship launches. The first arm swings out to brace Super Heavy for Starship installation and connect the upper stage to power, propellant supplies, and other launch pad utilities. A more exotic pair of arms nicknamed ‘chopsticks’ has a more complex job.
On top of using the chopsticks to lift, stack, and demate Starships and Super Heavy boosters and almost any weather and wind conditions, SpaceX wants to use the arms as an incredibly complex and precarious rocket recovery system.
For a booster or Starship “catch,” the rocket will approach the tower, enter the gap between the splayed arms, hover in place while the arms close around it, and eventually come to rest on hardpoints that appear to offer about as much surface area as a coffee table.
Based on a simulation of the process shown by Elon Musk, calling it a “catch” is a misnomer, as the arms will mainly move in one dimension (open/close) and can’t actually ‘grab’ the rocket in any real sense. As built and shown, they are closer to a tiny fixed landing platform capable of minor last-second positional adjustments.
Eventually, the chopsticks could shave a small amount of time off of post-recovery processing, removing the need for a crane (or the same arms) to attach to a landed booster or ship.
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