Elon Musk shows what SpaceX’s ‘rocket catcher’ looks like

SpaceX wants to get rid of its rocket landing gear. For this, the company imagines a mechanism to catch launchers in flight, just before they land.

“Catching” SpaceX rockets, just before they land on their return to Earth. This is the long-term project the American company is working on. And in a message published on January 10, Elon Musk shared a video giving an overview of the structure that will have to recover the launchers from tens of meters above the ground.

The video shows in a tracking shot a very tall tower, to which a horizontal arm is attached. It is he who will catch the rocket when it returns. It remains to be seen how: the rocket will probably decelerate or stay in hover to allow time for the arm to open and close on each side of the launcher, like a pincer, without crushing it.

There is also a winching system that allows the arm to be raised or lowered to the desired height, along the tower. This winch, one imagines, will lower the rocket stages that have been caught. Once at the bottom, they will then be picked up by ground crews to be repackaged for the next mission.

The Starship is still far from ready. SpaceX continues testing of the upper stage, pending assembly with the main stage for combined testing. // Source : SpaceX

SpaceX wants to remove the Starship’s landing gear

For those who follow SpaceX news closely, this orientation is not entirely new. It had already been suggested at the end of 2020 by Elon Musk, again on Twitter: “ We will try to catch the Super Heavy booster with the launch tower arm he said at the time. Since then, the American entrepreneur had hardly given any news.

This new approach to rocket recovery will concern the company’s next launcher, Starship, which will eventually replace the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy. Starship is the general name of the rocket, but also the name of its upper stage. Super Heavy is the name given to its first stage, or main stage. It is he who provides propulsion on takeoff.

By opting for such an atypical method in the history of space conquest, SpaceX hopes to both remove the entire landing system – which weighs a few tons. If it succeeds, the company could lighten the weight of the Starship and, therefore, save fuel for taking off, maneuvering and landing. It could also save space and have the opportunity to evolve the design of the machine.

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