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How SpaceX intends to recover its Super Heavy launcher

Elon Musk plans to begin the first tests of these Falcon Heavy boosters as early as 2021. As a reminder, it is these structures that will ultimately make it possible to propel Starship ships into space from Earth. But how do you go about getting them back?

Elon Musk created SpaceX in 2002 with a clear objective:to make humans an interplanetary species. With this in mind, the company has developed the Starship, a reusable ship currently in the testing phase. SpaceX plans to ramp up its testing program in the new year by relying on both launch pads at its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, with Starship prototypes installed on each.

We also know that the Super Heavy booster, supposed to propel the Starship into space, will begin its first tests during this year . Eventually, this gigantic structure over 70 meters high will have no less than 28 Raptor engines (about three times more powerful than the current Falcon 9 Merlin engines). With the Starship capped on it, this rocket should be about 120 meters tall.

Collect the Super Heavy with the launch tower

A question then arises:how to recover this huge booster? Does SpaceX intend to do it the same way as with its Falcon 9 boosters which land on their own on dedicated platforms thanks to integrated legs?

The answer is no. According to Elon Musk, who just responded to a tweet asking him the question, it will be for SpaceX to "capture" these first stages using the launch tower arm that normally stabilizes vehicles before takeoff.

It is difficult at the moment to imagine precisely this type of capture. On Youtube, Scott Manley has imagined two interesting approaches, while waiting for further details from Elon Musk.

Practical and economical

All we know is that the main advantages of this innovative method will be practical and economical.

According to Musk, this process would indeed promote the development of lighter and therefore cheaper boosters . He also specifies that this method would allow these first scenes to be immediately repositioned on their launch medium for "almost immediate" reuse. Hear by that, in just a few hours.

This rapid and efficient reuse of Super Heavy boosters will be essential in the context of SpaceX's Mars project, which will have to rely on well-oiled processes.

As ​​shown in the video below, it all starts with a capped Starship taking off on its Super Heavy launcher to be released into orbit. However, as it stands, the ship will not be able to go to Mars yet (not enough fuel). It is therefore expected that the launcher will return to Earth to fetch "gasoline" . A tanker version of the Starship will then be styled on it in order to join the first ship. This tanker vessel will finally dock with the Starship in orbit to transfer fuel to it. The tank full, he can finally begin his long journey to Mars.