SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has publicly shared a video of the tower that will be used to launch and capture the Starship rocket to Mars on his Twitter account. The structure, being built at the space firm's Starbase facility in Texas, has chopstick-like levers that will be used to re-position the rocket booster that put the second stage into orbit.
Starship launch & catch tower pic.twitter.com/5mLIQwwu0k— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 9, 2022
Robotics researcher Lex Friedman called the launch tower "one of the craziest engineering designs ever." The first orbital launch of the Starship rocket will take place in the next 10 weeks. During the test, the spacecraft will make a 90-minute journey after take-off from a starbase and land off the coast of Hawaii.
With the completion of development and testing, SpaceX's ultimate goal is to mass-produce Starship rockets and create a permanent human colony on Mars using a fleet of next-generation rockets.
Elon Musk is also buying disused oil rigs to repurpose and build a global network of offshore launch sites.
The billionaire previously mentioned his goal to send spaceships to the moon by 2024 and to Mars by 2030, but development of the spacecraft has been delayed due to a lawsuit involving Jeff Bezos and NASA's Blue Origin.
The lawsuit stemmed from a complaint that SpaceX had unfairly won a contract to develop a lunar lander for the US Space Agency, which was ultimately rejected.
While Blue Origin has yet to complete an orbital mission with its New Shepard rocket, SpaceX has a proven track record of delivering payloads into space. In 2021, SpaceX broke its own record by launching more than 30 rockets into orbit in one calendar year.
The company also broke its own record for the most consecutive launches, completing two separate missions using reusable Falcon 9 rockets at 15 hour intervals.
Reusable rockets will be key to Musk's achievement of his goals for Starship. The latest launch tower design potentially allows multiple missions on the same day using the same rocket fuel.
Grip levers also eliminate the need for propellant supports, reducing weight, fuel required and launch cost. The weapon is not expected to be used in the first test of the Starship Orbital Flight, which is expected to take place in March, as there has not been time to properly test all of its mechanisms.