In preparation for the installation of a pair of gigantic arms capable of lifting, stacking, and even catching Starships and Super Heavy rockets in mid-flight, SpaceX has started prepping its Starbase ‘launch tower’ for the installation of a pair of giant arms.
According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the assembly of the first of the structure’s three major arms started in earnest only in June 2021, with the second and third main arms to follow. An arm known as a ‘quick disconnect’ (QD) arm, which is intended to feed Starship and stable Super Heavy during Starship stacking, was placed on August 29th, and a claw-like appendage designed to grasp onto boosters was added approximately a month later.
It is just the real “quick-disconnect” mechanism that will connect to Starship’s umbilical panel in order to provide propellant, power, and communications connections that remains to be added to Mechazilla’s first arm.
Although SpaceX has been teasing the prospect of capturing Super Heavy and Starship for some time, the star of the Mechazilla show has always been the ‘chopsticks,’ which are a pair of enormous, moving arms that are used to lift and grab rockets.
— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) October 6, 2021
During the final week or two of July, prefabricated catch arm components started arriving at Starbase, which was less than three months ago. The main construction of both arms was almost completed in a month, with just one month left for plumbing, electrical, and a number of minor structural modifications to be completed. It took less than three months after the initial components arrived before SpaceX was able to raise the catch arm “carriage” vertically to place it on a temporary jig. The catch arm “carriage” is a kind of backbone that will support both arms and connect to the launch tower.
#SpaceX Boca Chica Starbase daily render News!🚀
The red means of transport of the SPMTs
are assembled and it looks like they will be used as support structure for the preassembly of the carriage and the chopsticks. The carriage is already hanging on the hook.@elonmusk @SpaceX pic.twitter.com/6shOqIhBNe
— Owe (@Bl3D_Eccentric) October 6, 2021
Two days later, SpaceX used the biggest crane at Starbase to lift and flip the first catch arm into the proper position, completing the mission. SpaceX will need to use a second crane to raise and flip the second arm into place while also moving the first arm into position so that a single big steel pin can slot through both of their hinges, according to reports. For whatever reason, maybe due to the onset of strong winds on Sunday, the first (right) arm remains to be suspended above an arm carriage that will ultimately house it, while the left arm has yet to be lifted by a second crane that was just set up for the purpose of lowering it.
At the end of the day, however, it is obvious that SpaceX is prepared to place both arms on the tower carriage. SpaceX will likely perform some minor carriage outfitting chores once that procedure is completed before putting the completed carriage-and-arms assembly on the launch tower itself. However, depending on the availability of the complicated system of pulleys and draw-works required by the tower in order to hold and move the carriage and arms, it is possible that Mechazilla will be completely installed and available for testing by the end of next month. Keep an eye out for further information!