Watch SpaceX catch Starship Super Heavy booster with 'chopsticks' in this animation

The recent release by SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, presents an intriguing insight into the future of space travel, potentially taking place in the near term. A newly shared 60-second video animated the landing of SpaceX’s colossal new Starship rocket’s first stage, Super Heavy, which is scheduled to be a common sight during launches. Unlike traditional landings, SpaceX plans to have the launch tower at their Texas site, dubbed Starbase, catch and hold Super Heavy with “chopstick” arms to allow more efficient refurbishing and relaunching.

This mid-air catch method was previewed in the animation, showcasing how the towering launch tower, affectionately named “Mechazilla” by Musk, would grasp Super Heavy after launch. SpaceX appears to be fast-tracking the development of this extraordinary landing technique. According to recent reports, Musk mentioned on Twitter that they could attempt catching the booster with the mechazilla arms during the next flight, as soon as the upcoming test.

The animated video is not just a theoretical proposal; SpaceX has already undertaken preliminary tests involving the chopstick arms closing around a static Super Heavy booster stationed on the launch mount. These strides towards realizing this mid-air catch promise to pave the way for efficient reusable SpaceX rockets, which is pivotal to the vision of revolutionizing space travel.

As of now, four test flights have been conducted by SpaceX, the first on April 2023 and most recently on June 6, 2024. With each subsequent trial, Starship has displayed marked improvement and progress, overcoming critical challenges like successful stage separation and landing, as demonstrated during the last test when both Super Heavy and the Starship stage accomplished their core objectives, resulting in controlled water landings.

The ultimate ambition of SpaceX’s ambitious Starship project is to enable human passage and cargo transportation to far-flung destinations, such as the moon and Mars. Both Super Heavy and the upper stage, referred to as Starship or simply Ship, are designed to embrace rapid reusability. The innovative Starship is already allocated for transporting astronauts under NASA’s Artemis lunar program. If schedules remain on track, Starship will land astronauts in the vicinity of the moon’s southern pole during the Artemis 3 mission, slated for late 2025.

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