SpaceX will try a significantly different approach to land its future reusable rocket launchers, according to CEO and founder Elon Musk. It will attempt to ‘capture’ the heavy booster, which is currently under development, by using the lifting tower arm used to stabilize the vehicle during pre – start preparations. Current Falcon 9 boosters return to Earth and land propulsively on their own built-in legs – but the goal of the Super Heavy is that the larger rocket should have no legs at all, says Musk.
The Super Heavy launch process will still involve the use of the engines to control the descent speed, but it will involve the use of the grille fins included in the main body to control the orientation during the flight to ̵
Another potential benefit gained by Musk is that it can allow SpaceX to essentially recycle the Super Heavy booster immediately back to the launch pad it returns to – possibly making it possible to be ready to fly again with a new payload and upper stage (consisting of Starship, the other spacecraft SpaceX is in the process of developing and test) for “less than an hour.”
The goal for Starship and Super Heavy is to create a launch vehicle that is even more reusable than SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 (and Falcon Heavy) system. Finally, the goal for Musk is to have Starship with regular and frequent flights – for point-to-point flights on Earth, for orbital missions closer to home, and for long-distance flights to the Moon and Mars. The pace at which he envisages this happening to make it possible to colonize Mars with a continuous human population requires the kind of rapid recycling and revision of the Super Heavy he described today with this proposed new landing method.
Prototypes of starships are currently being designed and tested in Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX has flown pre-production spacecraft over the past year. The company is also working on elements of the Super Heavy booster, and Musk recently said it intends to begin actively floating-testing that part of the launch system in a few months.