Chris Bergin, the managing editor of NASASpaceFlight, provided a Twitter video demonstration of SpaceX’s “Can Crusher” testing device. It is a terrifyingly large machine made to test rockets by crushing them ridiculously hard.
The Can Crusher was seen leaving the Boca Chica, Texas location as it made its way to test the Starship B7.1, which SpaceX is currently finishing. Though it has been seen at SpaceX and elsewhere, this is the most recent sighting of the arachnid-like Can Crusher.
Can crushers are enormous compactors used in the aerospace industry that perform the same function as empty soda can compactors but on a much greater scale.
“Place a soda can on the floor in an upright position and then stand on it — gradually applying weight — until the can ripples and collapses,” a NASA post from 2011, when the agency undertook the world’s largest can crusher test at the time, reads.
“It’s similar to what a team of NASA engineers will do to an immense aluminum-lithium rocket fuel tank in late March; their hope is to use data from the test to generate new ‘shell-buckling design factors’ that will enable light-weight, safe and sturdy ‘skins’ for future launch vehicles.”
Can crushers are made to test rocket parts by simulating the force of launching to make sure they are prepared for the strain of the operational phase. The can crusher used by SpaceX is as sophisticated as the company’s rockets, in contrast to the earlier models employed by NASA, which were smaller.
We mostly don’t see can crushers being used in pre-launch rocket testing, even though this has been going on for a while now. And I believe that only adds to the bizarreness of the equipment being moved around on the launchpad while deflated in the video.