Elon Musk has released new details on the design of his upcoming SpaceX launcher. After a successful Falcon 9, its next “launch vehicle”, the Super Heavy, will be designed to send the Starship shuttle into space.
In response to a user on Twitter, the boss of SpaceX said that his teams were working on a new landing procedure … without landing. The aerospace company would have a new project leaving aside the return to earth of its launchers on an autonomous basis.
We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 30, 2020
In essence, the next Super Heavy rocket should return to its launch pad thanks to an arm mounted on the launch tower. The thrusters will continue to play a role of braking and stabilizing the launcher, but its final stop would be when the arm has gripped the rocket.
“Less than an hour” to take off again
Super Heavy would therefore no longer need the three Falcon 9 supports, which deploy in approach to contact with the ground and which keep the rocket upright. By catching it this way, Super Heavy will no longer be stabilized on the ground, but will regain a layout close to that when launched.
It is easy to guess the goal of such a maneuver, but Elon Musk went even further by revealing the real objective in the long term: to be able to launch the rocket again “in less than an hour”.
He explained in a tweet about it:
“This will save mass, reduce the cost of ‘legs’ and allow immediate repositioning of the booster on the launch mount – ready to recharge in less than an hour.”
Super Heavy, the Starship Launcher
SpaceX announced 2021 with the much publicized Starship launch, twelve kilometers high, in early December. Popularized by its hard landing on the ground, it will have made it possible to achieve the company’s objective of designing a shuttle capable of heading for the Moon, or even Mars, with a capacity much greater than a simple capsule Dragon.
But to be able to approach new spheres, Starship will need a launcher. This will be the role of Super Heavy. This booster has not yet proven itself and in view of the method of recovering the launcher on the ground, there is no doubt that SpaceX will have to spend billions of dollars to wipe out the failures. Still according to Elon Musk, first prototypes of the latter could be tested in the coming months.