January 20, 2021

Rocket Lab’s Booster Recovery

2 min read

Rocket Lab said that its team had been able to recover the booster that was carrying 30 small satellites to space. They said the Electron Launcher was suspended under a parachute, and it was found in the Pacific Ocean of New Zealand. Rocket Lab said that the recovery team in the Pacific Ocean secured the booster, put it in a vessel, and brought it back to New Zealand for further examination. 

Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said that Electron’s first stage’s recovery is essential. He added that it took a lot of effort and cooperation across Rocket Lab teams to make the recovery mission successful. Peter said that they are happy that the Electron will be used again. The Electron rocket is developed to carry small satellites into orbit, and it has flown into space 16 times. Recently, Rocket Lab has instructed the Electron boosters to study structural loads, aerodynamic, and heating they go through during retry.

The mission started at 0220:021 GMT or 9:20:01 p.m. EST Thursday with liftoff from Rocket Lab’s spaceport at Mahia Peninsula, East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The 18-meter (60-foot-tall) rocket was propelled by the nine kerosene engines on the Electron’s first stage to the south from the launching pad. After 2 ½ minutes, the first stage engines stopped and separated from each other at an altitude of 80 kilometers, allowing only a single-engine to ignite the Electron’s second stage, enabling the rocket to keep on flying into orbit.

Beck said that the engineers are ready to inspect the rocket immediately after it gets back in the factory. He added that they would disassemble the rocket to see how every component functioned. Beck said that he knows it is a time-consuming process, but they will have to do it for improvement purposes.Beck said that the company is trying to show its potential in recovering and reusing Electron rocket booster through an incremental approach. The company targets to be the 2nd commercial rocket company to reacquire and reuse rocket boosters. 

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is smaller in relation to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which has the greater performance to manoeuvre in its engines’ mid-air restarts. Both rockets use cold gas thrusters to reignites their engines. Beck said the main purpose of reuse rocket is to increase the company’s launch and make the launching prices lower than the current rate. 

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