Robotic “dogs” have been utilized by police units, militaries, and government agencies whose roles require a strong security presence. Now they are being used by SpaceX to patrol the SpaceX test launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, ahead of the first (and hopefully not last) test flight of the Starship prototype SN15.
It may have reason for the increased security that includes patrols by the robotic dogs, considering that a YouTuber known only as “Loco VlogS” filmed himself trespassing at the Boca Chica facility in March. Loco VlogS has since deleted the video from his channel, but it has been uploaded elsewhere. A NASA spokesman later said that SpaceX had assured the space agency that it was investigating the matter.
It may be right to be concerned, considering that SpaceX makes use of technology that has been deemed important for national security along with being important for NASA’s various missions. SpaceX sometimes launches sensitive hardware for the military and has recently been tapped to complete development of the lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis Program.
Loco VlogS later posted this apology video acknowledging that his decision to trespass on a privately owned, fully operational rocket test facility was rather stupid.
SpaceX has lost the previous four prototypes, SN8, SN9, SN10, and SN11, while attempting to land them as part of high-altitude launch tests. The matter has resulted in some unwelcome scrutiny from the FAA and calls for a Congressional hearing. The test of SN11, shown in the below video, demonstrates the “bellyflop” maneuver that SpaceX intends to use to bring the Starship rockets back into Earth’s atmosphere.
This time, it has issued a warning that a failure in the upcoming test of SN15 could lead to what it called an “overpressure event” capable of shattering windows in nearby homes. However, it has not yet released an exact time for the test, which can depend on a wide variety of factors ranging from weather to a faulty engine. A test launch was once delayed because an official from the FAA was late, which likely caused Elon Musk further annoyance.
A robotic dog from Boston Dynamics costs $74,500 and are most often used for hazardous work. SpaceX has used them to inspect the debris from the last four prototypes after they exploded, for instance. Considering that SN15 has gone through several upgrades based on data from the previous high-altitude tests, the company may hope that the robots won’t be needed to serve the same purpose again. The most notable changes involve upgrades to the Raptor and the addition of a Starlink terminal capable of accessing SpaceX’s Internet satellites.
Two of SpaceX’s robotic dogs have been dubbed “Zeus” and “Apollo.” They are equipped with cameras and sensors that make them uniquely suited for their “jobs” in security and inspecting the debris from rocket explosions. The dogs were spotted by a photojournalist known as BobaChicaGal.