a new video shared by Elon Musk on Twitter

On Sunday evening, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared drone video of SpaceX’s Starbase Starship launch tower, located in Boca Chica Beach, South Texas.

The launch tower: technical details

The 120m-tall launch tower is equipped with giant pincer-like robotic arms, nicknamed “Mechazilla”. They are designed to stack the 50m high Starship on top of the 70m high Super Heavy rocket. It will also catch the stainless steel vehicles as they descend to the launch pad shortly after launching the payload into orbit. Mechazilla will allow the company to quickly pick up the launch vehicle to relaunch it in less than an hour. Impressive, right?

A first orbital flight test expected

SpaceX teams in Texas are preparing to perform a first orbital flight test. Over the past six months, engineers have performed pre-flight testing on the Starship SN20 and Super Heavy Booster 4 prototypes that will attempt this ambitious flight. It looks like Mechazilla is ready to support the mission. Even though Mechazilla won’t catch any spacecraft on the next test flight, we’ll soon see the robotic arms of the launch tower in action, when SpaceX stacks SN20 on Booster 4.

SpaceX is awaiting approval from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform the first orbital flight of the Starship, which will take off from southern Texas and land in the ocean off Kauai, in Hawaii. The FAA said it intended to complete the environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site by Feb. 28. The company can then apply for an orbital flight license.

Necessary preliminary tests

This week, SpaceX appeared to test the mechanical movement of the launch tower arms. Local Boca Chica photographers captured footage of the robotic claws opening and closing. And this morning, the arms were moved up and down and all the way to the top of the 400-foot-tall launch tower. SpaceX has yet to release an official animation to show how the launch tower will stack up and grab Starship and Super Heavy.

However, a digital artist, @ErcXspace via Twitter, has shared an impressive depiction of how Mechazilla could work, video shown below. Elon Musk even liked his video animation last year, stating that the animation is “very close to reality”!

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