SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has unveiled the new "Mechazilla" tower designed to catch the rocket that will eventually be used to take astronauts off planet Earth and launch them into space.
Starship, the vessel that will eventually serve as SpaceX's vehicle for interplanetary travel to Mars, is equipped with 29 Raptor engines, stands 400 feet tall, and can carry 220,000 pounds into orbit. It’s the largest vehicle of its kind ever built.
Musk provided a glimpse of the structure on Twitter, detailing the "starship launch & catch tower."
According to Tesla enthusiast page Teslarati, the tower’s arms are currently being tested by SpaceX, which began on January 4 when the company "lifted, opened, and swung the tower’s building-sized arms for the first time. Four days later, SpaceX performed a variation on the first round of tests, again slowly lifting the assembly up the side of the launch tower and opening and closing the arms. The most notable difference was the addition of several tandem swing tests, which hinted at more applied tests that were soon to come."
"SpaceX could obviously use a giant crawler or tower crane to accomplish a similar feat but cranes — especially large and tall ones — are extremely sensitive to wind conditions and effectively become very unsafe to operate in anything more than a brisk breeze," the article explains.
""To put it lightly, even the average weather on the South Texas Gulf Coast is anything but conducive to the routine and reliable operation of giant cranes, which is exactly what SpaceX would need to avoid near-future Starship launch and recovery operations being constantly delayed by weather."
SpaceX's manned space program continues to proceed as scheduled as the company secured Pad 39A in Florida, which formerly served as the launch point for NASA’s Apollo missions and space shuttle flights.
"39A is hallowed spaceflight ground — no place more deserving of a Starship launch pad!" wrote Musk. "Will have similar, but improved, ground systems & tower to Starbase."
SpaceX has been a driving force for technological innovation and renewed interest in the long-dormant space race with the development of cheap, reusable rockets that can land themselves.
The company has successfully launched more than 1,900 satellites into orbit, carried astronauts to the International Space Station – the first time in a decade – and is developing a satellite internet program called Starlink, which already provides reliable, high-speed coverage in the parts of the world it has already been deployed for.