SpaceX announced in 2013 that they would be producing rocket boosters that could land back on the ground. But until then no one had been able to land a rocket back on the ground. A lot of people said this was a stupid idea. The reason is that this was a very complicated affair. But after years of trying, they succeeded. They also successfully landed the rocket booster on a drone ship parked in the middle of the sea. These boosters are now successfully carrying out their space missions. It has also brought huge economic benefits to SpaceX. They have saved about 1.4 billion USD in the last 5 years. super heavy booster is their next launch vehicle.
Star Ship & super-heavy booster
SpaceX’s next mission is to build human settlements on Mars. The spacecraft designed for that is the starship. So the experiments are still going on. This starship has managed to attract the attention of many space enthusiasts around the world. The SN8 prototype was tested late last year. Elon musk said that although it could not land successfully it was largely successful. The SN8 exploded due to a fault in its fuel tanks. So super heavy is the booster that takes this starship into space. Construction of this super heavy booster has already begun. However, this prototype will be tested around the middle of this year. This is also a rocket booster like falcon 9. But this is far more powerful than that falcon 9. Therefore, when landing on the ground again, the landing legs have to bear a large load and shock.
So Elon musk recently came up with a weird idea to land this booster. The idea is to catch the booster by the launch tower just after the booster is close to the ground. Apparently, this sounds like a crazy idea but other companies have tried this method. NASA came up with the idea of catching the first stage of their Saturn 5 rocket by a helicopter and bringing it back to the ground. This was to be done by a helicopter with propellers about 100m long. The rocket lab company is also planning to catch the booster of their electron rocket by a helicopter and bring it to the ground.
To know the reason for this you need to pay attention to the entire mission of the starship. This starship is mainly used to transport people and goods to Mars and the Moon. There are two main parts to this. Those two parts are the starship and the super heavy booster. Once this starship is in orbit, the booster must return to Earth. But the orbiting starship does not have enough fuel to reach its destination. Therefore it must refuel by three starship tanker type aircraft. To speed up this process they should be ready to launch the booster again soon.
After using the Falcon 9 booster, the landing legs parts must be replaced. But it is not practical to repair a super heavy booster like that. So it’s a waste of time. There are several other advantages to this method. The landing legs of this booster make up about 10% of the total weight. Therefore, the efficiency of the booster also increases when there are no landing legs. It also saves landing leg repair costs.
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how to catch super heavy booster
As mentioned above, the booster returns to the ground and restarts its engines like a falcon 9. Its engine reduces the thrust to weight ratio of the booster to 1. so it can hover over the pad and give it extra time to adjust the position. The booster is then grabbed by an arm attached to the launch tower. For that, the grid fins of the booster are used. Now you have a question on how to bear the full weight of the booster from the grid fins. These grid fins are designed to withstand even a large drag by the atmosphere when the booster is reentering. So it is already very strong. Watch the video below to get an idea of this landing.