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Starbase update: Mechazilla Chopsticks assembly, Raptor vacuum engine on SN20, SN21 nosecone work, more


The Starship program at the SpaceX Starbase rocket manufacturing and launch facility in Texas is in full swing. The launch integration tower aka Mechazilla built beside the Starbase launch mount is getting upgrades and fixes on a daily basis.

The team (Boca Chica Gal Mary and bot cameras) covered the entire day’s SpaceX activities at Starbase and posted them in a timelapse video (watch below).

Mechazilla Chopsticks

SpaceX lifted the 2nd arm of the Chopsticks in position yesterday to assemble it with the first arm. These gigantic arms assembled together will be used to mount Super Heavy rocket boosters on the launch mount and stacking a Starship onto Super Heavy.

When installed on Mechazilla, the Chopsticks will not only be used for stacking Starship but will also try to catch both Super Heavy and Starship on their way back to Earth. This is possibly a better alternative than the drone ships that SpaceX currently uses to catch Falcon 9 rockets on landings.

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Artist Erc X has illustrated the function of the Chopsticks in the following concept rendering animation.

Since this is a new idea and has never been tested before, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has previously admitted that this experiment can fail while testing. But excitement is guaranteed while watching this happen in the real world, failure or success.

SpaceX assembled both the Chopstick arms together yesterday. When the structure and the Starbase orbital launch tower (integration tower / Mechazilla) tower are ready, both will be mated to perform the function shown in the above animation.

Linear Bearing Installation

The Linear Bearing assembly was also installed on Mechazilla yesterday. This set of huge bearings will enable the up and down movement of the Chopsticks that will help in catching and mounting Starship and Super Heavy.

We might be able to see all this in action as SpaceX is trying hard for the first Starship orbital flight test before the end of 2021 (pending approval by the FAA).

Mechazilla Linear Bearing hanging onto the launch tower just before installation. Credits: / YouTube (full video below). Edit: Iqtidar Ali /

Raptor Vacuum Engine on Starship 20

SpaceX also carried on work on the Starship SN20 as this is the first prototype aimed at the first orbital flight test. A new vacuum-level Raptor engine was also re-installed on Starship 20.

Starship SN20 with 6 Raptor engines (with 3 sea-level smaller and 3 wider vacuum exhaust nozzles). Source: Elon Musk / Twitter.

This Raptor re-installation process comes after the SN20 prototype successfully passed the cryogenic pressure-proof tests earlier this month.

Àccording to the above image shared by Elon Musk back in August, there will be 3 sea-level and 3 vacuum-level Raptor engines installed on Starship SN20 for the orbital flight test.

Starship SN21 Progress

While Starship SN20 is preparing for the orbital flight test, SpaceX is simultaneously working on the next Starship prototype i.e. SN21.

Starship SN21 nosecone was seen in the production tent at Starbase Boca Chica, Texas yesterday. Looks like the majority of heat-shield TPMS tiling work has already been carried out on the SN21 nosecone.

There are tons of other tiny updates in the video, let’s watch.

Related: SpaceX becomes the second-ever unicorn company to reach a $100 billion valuation

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By Iqtidar Ali

Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii