Update: SpaceX has now lifted, flipped, and staged all three components of Starbase’s Mechazilla rocket-catcher, including two giant arms measuring some 36m (~120 ft) from tip to tower.
Currently hanging from both of SpaceX’s largest Starbase cranes, teams must now install massive steel pins to turn those three separate components – two arms and a carriage-like base – into an integrated structure ready for installation on the exterior of the first Starship launch tower. It’s unclear how long that might take but SpaceX is wasting no time and has already begun installing 12 ‘guide blocks’ that will allow the carriage and arms to slide up and down tracks affixed to three of four tower ‘legs.’
SpaceX has begun preparing its Starbase ‘launch tower’ for the installation of a pair of giant arms designed to lift, stack, and even catch Starships and Super Heavy boosters out of mid-air.
Deemed ‘Mechazilla’ by CEO Elon Musk, assembly of first of the structure’s three main arms only began in earnest in June 2021. That ‘quick disconnect’ (QD) arm – designed to fuel Starship and stabilize Super Heavy during Starship stacking – was installed on August 29th and followed by the addition of a claw-like appendage meant to grab onto boosters about a month later. Now, all that’s missing from Mechazilla’s first arm is the actual ‘quick-disconnect’ device that will connect to Starship’s umbilical panel to supply propellant, power, and communications links.
However, ever since Musk first hinted at the possibility of catching Super Heavy and Starship, the star of the Mechazilla show has always been its ‘chopsticks’ – SpaceX’s internal colloquialism for the pair of giant, moving arms meant to lift and catch rockets.