July 28, 2021

SpaceX rocket landings ambitions keep getting more interesting with time

For quite some time now, SpaceX has been reusing its rockets. Good examples are the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9’s first stages. At around 9 minutes following a lift-off, the company has been bringing the first stages down. It is usually in such a way that they land softly and vertically. The landing area is usually a ship in the ocean or somewhere not far from the launchpad.

So far, the precision of the touchdowns has been remarkable. However, the same precision is need once payloads and people start landing to the moon. That’s where the Starship system comes in. it is what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was referring to through a tweet he tweeted on December 30 last year. He explains that the Starship’s grid fins will take the load, whereas the launch tower arm will catch the Super Heavy booster.

It is important to note how different and ambitious the move it. For instance, unlike the previous landings that have been about Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9, the Super Heavy is relatively large. Additionally, the Super Heavy won’t land but rather be held by the Starship’s launch tower arm. Therefore, there will be no need for the Super Heavy to have landing legs. There is also the fact that the landing will be on the launch pad. Before that, it has been happening in the ocean or an area near the launch stand.

According to Elon Musk, Starship comes bearing several benefits. One of them is the elimination of landing legs which could save the company a lot of money. With the landing legs absent, the rocket will be relatively light. Since the rockets will be landing on the launch pad, there will be no need to relocate it later. Instead, the rocket will be ready to fly again within an hour of landing.

The Starship’s upper stage will be a spacecraft with the same name and a length of 165 feet equivalent to 50 meters. The fact that both the Starship and Super Heavy will be reusable is good news to mars exploration missions and other demanding missions. It would reduce the economic burden associated with launches.

The test flights of Starships have been ongoing for a while in SpaceX’s South Texas facility. The latest one dubbed Serial No. 8 (SN8) took place about a month ago. It soars up to an altitude of 12.5 km equivalent to 7.8 miles. The landing point was exactly where it was meant to be. Since it came down relatively too fast, the result was a significant fireball following as explosion. Interestingly, it was a big success, according to Elon Musk. Soon, SN9 will be going up since it is already on the launch stand. Just like SN8, SN9 will also have 3raptor engines. However, Starship will have six raptor engines and Super Heavy will have 30.