SpaceX plans to start catching their Starship Super Heavy booster have raised eyebrows. Those Starship catch attempts should start with Booster 5, the second Super Heavy booster to launch, Elon confirmed in a tweet this week. Along with this, news about Starlink satellite’s laser interconnects and development at Starbase.
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Catching Starship Super Heavy booster
Starship recovery techniques for reuse are all impressive. The flip maneuver is an impressive sight, but catching a Super Heavy booster falling from the sky is perhaps even more impressive. SpaceX has been working on the orbital launch tower for some time, with the quick disconnect arms currently being worked on. The first orbital launch of Starship will not include recovering Booster 4 or Ship 20, but Elon said on Twitter they hope Booster 5 will be their first catch attempt.
For the first Super Heavy launch, the booster will have a soft splashdown in the Gulf, off the coast of Texas. The Ship, meanwhile, will soft-splash down well off the coast of Hawaii. This launch will server to gather a lot of data, without risking damage to all the infrastructure around the launch site.
When they do catch the booster, the catching arms will use tank-like treads on the arms to reposition the booster as they line it back up with the orbital launch pad.
While the pace of launch attempts at Starbase may have slowed down, development certainly hasn’t. A tread was spotted in Germany with SpaceX’s iconic “X” logo. Spotted on the Autobahn, people quickly assumed this was for a crane down in Starbase. We weren’t left waiting long, as Elon soon confirmed the tread was for a new crane in Starbase.
Artist Erc X shared a render of two Starship Super Heavy rockets side by side with two complete orbital launch towers titled “Starbase 2023”. Elon replied “2022”. SpaceX still doesn’t have their first orbital launch tower completed, so if we are going to see two orbital launch sites ready next year, hopefully, we will see construction start on another orbital launch pad soon.
Generation 2 Starlink satellites with laser interconnects
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service is already providing service to over 100k users. Most of the satellites already deployed do not have laser-based interconnects. So currently they connect directly from a user terminal to a ground station.
The next generation of satellites will all have these inter-satellite connections that allow the service to spread to more areas without needing to build any ground based infrastructure.
These interconnects could be active in four to six months. This opens Starlink to providing service to arctic regions or ships in the middle of the ocean. Without the need for a ground station, this means Starlink could provide service to countries that may not offer an unrestricted internet connection to their citizens.
Elon seems to be open to the possibility of defying the restrictive regulations of some countries, saying, “they can shake their fist at the sky”.