Space X

Space X

Elon Musk’s vision for the next-generation starship spacecraft is of rapid reusability. His plans are to launch it then bring back the rocket booster. Refurbish the booster and quickly launch another starship. To achieve that vision, it involves a pretty wild piece of engineering: a launch and catch tower.

On Sunday January 9th, Musk tweeted a video of the tower with the succinct message, “Starship launch & Catch tower.” The video is 31 seconds long and gives the viewer a visual tour of the structure. It sports an arm that’s made to snag a returning falcon heavy booster after it is done its job escorting a starship off this rock.

They are developing the tower at SpaceX’s Starbase Facility in Texas. At the same time SpaceX is working to get a Starship prototype into orbit for the first time. SpaceX is building Starship as a multipurpose vehicle that could carry humans to the moon and Mars and also work as transportation between locations on earth. Musk, who is well known for dreaming big, is hoping to make orbit with the shiny spacecraft early this year and conduct up to a dozen test flights during 2022.

SpaceX is still waiting to see if the Federal Aviation Administration will issue a launch license for an orbital Starship to take off from Texas. There is a lot that has to happen with that test flight and other developments before we will be able to see the tower try to catch a rocket booster.

Musk has referred to the robotic catcher as “Mechazilla.” Chris Bergin of has been tracking testing of the tower and sharing videos of its exercises. Starship prototype launches have seen both successes and explosions so it will be tense moments when it finally sees action. As Musk tweeted last year, “Success is not guaranteed, but excitement is!”

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