7:45 a.m. ET, November 18, 2023
Starship’s Launchpad: A Bizarre and Unique Sight
SpaceX’s launchpad at Starbase, located at the southernmost tip of Texas by the Gulf of Mexico, boasts some truly unique features.
One of the most eye-catching features is the large metal arms that appear to embrace the rocket. This unconventional structure, aptly named “Mechazilla” by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, serves a unique purpose.
SpaceX envisions these arms catching the Starship spacecraft mid-air as it returns from a trip to space, a daring maneuver that has never been attempted before.
While unconventional, this approach shares similarities with SpaceX’s previous successful rocket landings, particularly the Falcon 9’s historic soft touchdown in April 2016.
Unlike its predecessors, SpaceX plans for the Starship booster to fly directly into Mechazilla’s metal arms, eschewing traditional landing legs.
While today’s test won’t involve landing the Starship or Super Heavy, SpaceX aims to reinstate Super Heavy’s engines and potentially test a landing maneuver before it heads into the ocean.
This crucial test is expected to occur approximately six minutes and 30 seconds into the flight.
Later in the mission, the Starship spacecraft may execute a similar maneuver, utilizing a belly flop maneuver for landing over an hour into its flight.