Elon Musk shared that SpaceX is thinking about catching Starship’s Super Heavy rocket booster by its four grid fins using the launch mount tower that will be on future versions of the Starship launch mount.
Before now, we’ve thought Super Heavy landing would be similar to how SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lands its first stage booster back on land. That would require the use of landing legs and either having a landing pad next to the launch mount or landing directly on the launch mount to be able to reload another Starship on top of the booster to launch again.
Starship is meant to be a hyper reusable vehicle. That’s why how it lands will be very important. SpaceX is taking what it is learning with how long it takes to turnaround its Falcon boosters and putting that knowledge into how to turnaround Starship and Super Heavy vehicles faster.
Landing the booster on a designated landing pad could push launching the next missions back by many hours or even not until the next day. Lifting up the booster, retracting the legs, and reintegrating on the pad is a lot of work just in itself. It’s obvious SpaceX is taking the idea of “the best part is no part” to heart and “undesigning” the legs of Super Heavy.
There isn’t much about the full Starship vehicle that is normal. Between the belly flop landing and this, one of those has to take the cake for craziest ideas to come out of SpaceX yet. tThisis might sound crazier to read than it is for them to do however. SpaceX already has to be pinpoint with their landings of the Falcon 9, so all they would have to do is raise what altitude in which they need to reach 0. The more difficult parts would most likely be accuracy of the landing and assuring the grid fins can handle that much weight.
SpaceX has been met with incredulous responses for saying many things from trying to build a rocket in the first place to getting government contracts, landing boosters, reusing boosters, and being able to launch astronauts into space. SpaceX pushes the envelope of what is possible, and that’s why the space exploration company is so beloved.