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Watch SpaceX test ‘chopsticks’ for upcoming catch of Super Heavy booster

SpaceX has been testing out the mechanical arms that will attempt to catch the Super Heavy booster at the end of its fifth test flight, which could take place next month.

A short video shows one of the giant arms clasping a rocket part as part of a rehearsal for the highly anticipated “catch” maneuver, which will occur as the booster returns to the launch tower at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, shortly after deploying the upper stage Starship spacecraft to orbit.

The Elon Musk-led spaceflight company also released a computer-generated video showing how a perfect homecoming of the Super Heavy booster will look. The footage shows the Super Heavy booster performing a landing burn as it approaches the tower, with the mechanical arms safely securing the vehicle as it comes close.

Returning the booster after launch is a core capability to Starship becoming rapidly and reliably reusable

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 27, 2024

SpaceX has been testing the Starship — comprising the first-stage Super Heavy booster and upper-stage Starship spacecraft — since April 2023. The first flight saw the vehicle explode just minutes after launch, while the second flight also exploded, but that time after the two sections had successfully separated. The third test lasted around 45 minutes and achieved many of the mission goals, while the fourth test earlier this month was the best yet and saw both the booster and the spacecraft perform landing burns for the first time, with both parts coming down on water.

The upcoming flight, however, will see SpaceX attempt its first catch of the Super Heavy as it returns to the launch site.

SpaceX has already nailed the landing procedure for its trusty Falcon 9 rocket, but at 50 meters tall, the first stage of this vehicle is much shorter and uses legs to land upright. The Super Heavy is 70 meters tall and has no landing legs, so the flight home will have to be highly accurate to enable the tower’s arms to secure the booster as it comes in.

When fully tested, the Starship is expected to carry crew and cargo to the moon, Mars, and even beyond.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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