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One of the design constraints of the Falcon 9, its skinniness, is to allow it to be transported by truck back to the launch site.

Falcon 9 is 3.7 metres in diameter, whereas Starship and the super heavy booster will be 9 metres in diameter.

How do they intend to transport these spacecraft?

I understand that the super heavy landing is intended to happen by being caught by the launch tower. Even so, there will presumably be flight trajectories that won't allow it to come back to the same launching site. There will also be the need to transport the starship and booster from the manufacturing centre to other launch sites.

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    $\begingroup$ Very very carefully! It is basically too big to move outside of very narrow locations. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jul 2 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ "to allow it to be transported by truck back to the launch site" is false. They could transport a wider structure from the port back to launch pad. The 3.7m limitation is imposed by the transport needs from the manufacturing site (Hawthorne, California) to the Development and Test Facility (McGregor, Texas) and the launch sites (Cape Canaveral in Florida, Vandenburg in California). The limit is relevant to both road and rail maximum clearance distance, which is not nearly so relevant on the very short trip from the harbor to the launch area. $\endgroup$ Jul 2 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ @geoffc it is also too big to move inside of very narrow locations! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 2 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh whatever you do, don't send it thru the Suez Canal :-) $\endgroup$ Jul 2 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly the long-term plan is to maintain sufficient fuel that the glide path plus thrust will always get back to the intended launch pad? $\endgroup$ Jul 2 at 14:30
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Falcon 9 is 3.7 metres in diameter, whereas Starship and the super heavy booster will be 9 metres in diameter.

First, I'd like to point out that since Starship and Super Heavy can only be transported vertically, your estimation of the height difference between a Falcon 9 transport and a Super Heavy transport is off by a couple orders of magnitude. The height of a transport that is trying to pass under a bridge wouldn't be 3.7m vs. 9m, it's 3.7m vs 70m.

How do they intend to transport these spacecraft?

There are two aspects to this answer:

  1. They're rockets. They can fly, there is no need for them to drive on the road.
  2. SpaceX wants to build hundreds of Starships. There is no reason to believe those would all be built in a single factory. SpaceX could just build them near to the launch pads.

And of course, you can combine those two: build near a major space port, then fly to your actual launch location from there.

SpaceX has already demonstrated that it is possible to build Starships within weeks or at the most a few months pretty much anywhere, even in an empty dirt field with no infrastructure. They have also demonstrated that it is possible to build mass-Starship factories within months or at the most a few years pretty much anywhere, even in an empty dirt field with no infrastructure.

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    $\begingroup$ They'll still want some ability to move their spacecraft around., I imagine. $\endgroup$
    – Ingolifs
    Jul 6 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ My guess is they'll do it the same way Boeing or Airbus do: they are machines whose literal reason for existence is to move from point A to point B. So, why would you devise some complex way of transporting them, if they can just as well transport themselves? $\endgroup$ Jul 6 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Because transporting something long distance by boat, even factoring in all the complex logistical problems, is probably still more cost-efficient than sending it on a sub-orbital trajectory that requires airspace clearances, permissions, good weather, no problems with the spacecraft, and quite a lot of methane. There still has to be provision for transporting these things if they can't fly for whatever reason, just the same as how we have tow trucks and auto transport trucks even though the vast majority of cars manage to move by themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Ingolifs
    Jul 6 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ Boeing, Airbus, etc. have already figured out all of this. It either flies, is repaired, or scrapped. You never ship an Airbus around, at least not one that is fully assembled. (For certain political reasons, different parts of an Airbus are built in different countries and shipped around, but SpaceX does not have such political restrictions.) But a 747 or A380 that can't fly will either be repaired or scrapped, not put on a truck and driven cross-country. $\endgroup$ Jul 6 at 21:50

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