SpaceX Wants to Catch Returning Boosters Before They Land

Elon Musk said his company is looking at ways to catch its giant new Super Heavy boosters by their grid fins, to save weight and time

    2021/01/05

NSFW    HAWTHORNE, CALIFORNIA — Elon Musk says SpaceX will try a very different approach to landing its future reusable rocket boosters, according to tech website Techcrunch.

On 31 December, Musk tweeted: "We're going to try to catch the Super Heavy booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load."

Current Falcon 9 boosters return to Earth and land propulsively on their own built-in legs — but Musk's new plan for the Super Heavy booster is for the larger rocket not to have legs at all.

SpaceX's Super Heavy booster is still under development. This giant booster rocket would be the biggest rocket stage ever built, featuring up to 28 Raptor rocket engines.

The booster's landing sequence would still involve the use of its engines to control the velocity of its descent, but the new plan would see the grid fins — which help control its orientation during flight — double as catch arms that would catch on a giant catching bracket.

This means the giant rocket would hang from its grid fans without touching the ground at all. This method would save cost, weight, and turnaround time by omitting landing legs from the rocket.
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