SpaceX might not rely on legs to land its next-generation booster rockets. Elon Musk has revealed that his company will try to “catch” the future Super Heavy booster using the launch tower arm, with the grid fins (used to help control the descent) shouldering the load. As TechCrunch explained, this process would effectively hook the rocket using the tower arm before it reaches the ground.
This would require very precise positioning, and there’s still a long way to go when Super Heavy flight testing might not start until a few months from now at the earliest. If successful, though, the catch method could save SpaceX from adding bulky legs to its rocket. A truly precise maneuvering system might even reduce turnaround time by letting SpaceX relaunch the rocket without having to move it from its landing position.
That could be crucial to SpaceX’s goals. Musk and company ultimately want a more reusable rocket system than the Falcon series, as that would help Starship launch on the rapid schedules desired for a range of missions, including trips to the Moon and Mars. A booster that doesn’t require much more than refuelling could help accomplish that feat.
We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 30, 2020