Can SpaceX Really Catch Starships?


Take a look at how SpaceX will catch Starships and Superheavy Boosters. Every one at the smallstars team is excited to introduce our Guide Hooks System concept. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Nick Henning and WAI Concepts:
What about it:

By the way, I really wanted to show a bunch of other catching concepts, but I didn’t get a chance to do so. Here’s an especially cool one by Nick Henning that makes the system WAY more efficient by removing the need for a starship landing burn:

Festive Fries:

Aircraft Carrier Landings: MIR Planet
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Can SpaceX Really Catch Starships?

  1. This makes next to no sense. If the ship were to land off-center, the torque from your cables would introduce hard-to-control angular momentum and sheer. At the very least you’d need to make the towers a good deal wider in the direction perpendicular to the catching cables.

    Asides from this: as you point out in the beginning of your video, the whole point of catching starship is weight reduction. Your hooks certainly defeat that purpose – you might as well just stick on landing legs.

  2. The starship will be top heavy once its used all of the fuel in its lower section so it will have a high center of gravity. If you used hooks instead of fins flipping up from higher on the vehicle, rather than folding down from near the boosters, they would be closer to the center of gravity providing a safer landing. The cables could also be connected to some kind of counter-wieghted braking system in the side towers to take into account varying weight and landing speeds of each landing. And there should be several rows of these cables stacked on top of each other to lesson the stress of any one cable and provide some redundancy for safely landing Every craft. However, taking into consideration the starship will be free falling and swinging its rear end into position i don't know how probable it will be to safely "thread the needle" every landing with this design.

  3. Humm, I'd say the proposed hook system would need to be run through a physics simulation to check the forces and torques. Nice idea on paper, but is it stable? Can it take the forces involved?

  4. I would look into deploying a paraglide chute from the nose. It would help slow starship down to 100 mph which reduces fuel requirements after the reentry burn slows it down to subsonic. Also, it would give some control over the trajectory during the decent. Also, it allows the fuel to settle vertically before the final burn.
    Also, it is reasonable to deploy 2 parasails that hold the nose and near the tail. This increases the total drag by the side profile of the starship or booster and the lift of 2 sails. This gives the starship or booster the ability to maneuver a few miles to correct for any landing point errors. The tail chute would detach when the starship goes vertical.

  5. I have strong doubts about your design: Adding thin catch-hook arms to the vehicle that need a gutter on each side of the ship, right at the edge of the fire-protection, does not look sturdy. It also means those thin arms need to be protected by heath-resistant material, while still being smooth enough to slide along the cable. I think that is the weakest point of your design.

    I remember Elon's mantra: "No part is the best part" and think SpaceX will try to reinforce the forward fins and catch it there with the same tower-catch-arms as used to catch the booster.

  6. Hi
    This is very interesting, the simplest solution is often the best. Of all the possibile solutions out there, this seams the most realistic – good job!

    Just a few questions:
    Q: How do you plan to unhook the vehicle once its landed?

    Being hinged at the bottom is good for landing, but will have a lot of forces applied on it during takeoff, which are all trying to hinge them open.
    Q: how do you make sure they don't get ripped off during takeoff?

  7. I could see there being a intermediate structure attached to cables… attached to the tower. Cables stretch to take the load transfering to the grid fins. Initially I think they will just try to capture starship booster with the simple catch structure but I think they will find it will start to damage the tower far too quickly. So another solution will be needed.

  8. The Ryan Vertijet used a similar system, but with a hook on just one side. It came to a hover, eased toward the tower/trailer and was caught by a cable strung between 2 arms. No moving parts just a couple of short legs that contacted the tower and kept the jet from rotating. This was in the ‘50’s, so no computers other than pilot skill and eyeballs.

  9. I'm sure the idea of a boat catching an aircraft was an outrageous idea. today its the norm. Aircraft carriers are a thing of the norm. I believe the Starship will be common thing.

  10. Why couldn't just x2 oversized grid fins be used and simplify even further on the booster? There was talk about using x3 fins some time ago next logical step maybe?…

  11. Guide hooks and/or a variation on that concept is a real interesting solution enjoyed watching this episode and the concept felt it was worth my time watching this thanks for posting it will be interesting to see where this ends up going too!

  12. Really nice video, but that design looks like the mounting point of those arms are below it's center of gravity, and it looks like it would immediately flip upside down

  13. The idea is interesting, however, there is one fundamental reason why SpaceX is not going to go in that direction: The whole point of Starship is to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. If they want that, Starship has to land retropropulsively and it has to do it reliably. No catching towers (yet) on Mars, unfortunately…

  14. I like the ingenuity, but this goes against Elons mantra: "the best part is no part." the actual physics of this don't work like the animation shows, so while it looks nice, it's not realistic. You can't put flush hooks into the steel rings without severly sacrificing strength. No, I think they'll catch boosters with fins and maybe use fins to catch starship.

  15. As for catching Starship the emphasis will be moved to the tower. There will be legs on the Starship but most likely just structural points on the skirt – like jacking points on your car. The impact and any 'sacrifice' will be taken by the tower/landing pad which will compensate for any difference in velocity/position.

  16. Your idea is great ?
    But I think while attempting to catch the starship, whenever starship lands off-center hooks will make starship unstable and support towers will feel great force on top of that passengers will have unwanted swing ride?.
    What you think about it please share your thoughts.

  17. I'm pretty sure that the booster will hover and the tower arms will move to catch it. It may take 50 tons of fuel to hover at first but as they practise and tune the software to communicate between the booster/tower it should become seamless with only a couple of tons of fuel needed in reserve.

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