Elon Musk has posted the first glimpse of the company's famous tower that will not only launch SpaceX's next rocket but also help in catching it as it returns back to Earth. He shared the drone footage of the tower with his followers on Twitter on Sunday.
Starship launch & catch tower pic.twitter.com/5mLIQwwu0k— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 9, 2022
SpaceX's Starship is probably one of the company's riskiest projects. While the success of the rocket can send humans to the Moon and beyond, its failure or even delays in its deployment might cause the company to go into bankruptcy. As Musk had told employees last year, Starship must get firing and launch commercial missions by 2022.
Helping it launch frequently is a nifty design trick that SpaceX is attempting and the launch and catch tower is critical to executing it. Unlike the Falcon 9 rockets that SpaceX reuses by landing it back on Earth, Starship's Heavy Booster rocket does not have landing legs.
The absence of legs reduces the weight of the booster whose main job is to get the heavy payload (Starship) off to space, Phys reported last year. Since the legs have no role in payload deployment, the weight reduction leads to lesser fuel requirement, hence, lesser takeoff weight.
The first stage booster rocket will be reused after it's caught mid-air when it returns to the launch site, negating the need for landing legs. Another second stage Starship can then be shot off to space once the booster rocket is refueled. Musk believes the method could reduce the turnaround time to under an hour.
A Twitter user had made a short animation of how this would work that ElonMusk himself had approved last year.
Starship's maiden flight that is expected to happen in March will not see the booster being caught by the tower, Digital Trends reported. As can be seen in the video shared by Musk, the arms that are critical to the capture and reload strategy are not in place yet and need to be tested extensively before they can be trusted with a booster firing its 33 Raptor engines.
We have long known that Musk intends to send humanity to the Moon and Mars within a decade's time. But just how quickly does he want to colonize these celestial bodies that Starships need to be launched within an hour?