Starship and crane reflection in the SpaceX helmet visor

The Mega Machines Assembling SpaceX Rockets


Sometimes it takes the greatest machines and pieces of equipment to build engineering marvels. That’s certainly the case of SpaceX rockets and other space vehicles they are sending into orbit. SpaceX is the well-known aerospace company designing, building and launching rockets, founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Have you ever stopped to consider what type of heavy machines are required to build and move pieces of rockets into position?

The whole world is following with amazement the latest developments from SpaceX these days, especially the Starship project, which promises to land the first astronauts on the Moon since the Apollo program. But behind the construction and moving of great rockets is equally great equipment to be found. Just think of all the mega machines engaged in this process: impossibly high cranes, huge trailers, and not to mention all the special lifting and access equipment buzzing around rocket segments in construction.

All advancements in the space industry are supported by versatile machines that are in their own league impressive, although not always present in the spotlight. These are to be found everywhere in the SpaceX build and testing facilities and launch complexes, if one looks closely.

We’ve browsed through the social media accounts of SpaceX and Elon Musk in search of images of these giant machines. And here are some of them spotted at Starbase Texas, the production facility and launch site for Starship, which we think are worth mentioning.

Moving the Starship rocket to orbital launch pad

This is a task worthy of only some of the biggest crawler cranes in the world, such as this LR 11350, an over 1000 tons crawler crane commissioned earlier in 2021 and especially configured by Liebherr to be able to erect the Starship onto the launch pad.

After the Super Heavy booster rocket that takes the Starship spacecraft into orbit, is delivered on the launch pad, Starship is in turn gracefully lifted atop the booster rocket.

Can you count the number of wheels on this Fagioli modular trailer?

The heavy haulage of the Super Heavy booster rocket is executed by a heavy duty Fagioli modular trailers capable to support its weight.

And when it’s not moving rockets, the Fagioli trailer is also ensuring safe transportation for the large Liebherr crane, the one dubbed “Frankencrane” due to its variety of boom extensions from other cranes.

Cranes, scissor lifts, boom lifts, telescopic handlers, you name it!

Because SpaceX are building their starships vertically, workers need to execute their work high up. Sturdy cranes are required to lift the 17 stainless steel barrels (of 9 meters in diameter each) and the nose cone that make up the Starship spacecraft, while ultra booms are getting the workers in place at the needed altitudes for welding these segments together.

As reaching out for the stars is literally a business that invites not only astronauts, but also workers to high altitudes, it’s no wonder that more humble machines like booms and lifting equipment of all makes and models (Genie, Manitou, JLG and other) are ever present in motion at Starbase.

What’s next?

As the “Mechazilla”, the Starship tower with the purpose to catch the giant booster following a launch, is currently being built on the premises, we’re left waiting in excitement for the next engineering wonder that comes up at SpaceX.

Featured image credit: composition photo of high-tech SpaceX space suit and Starship fully stacked.

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