Private airline Rocket Lab just caught a mid-air booster rocket as it sank on its way back through Earth’s atmosphere, tying it to a long rope attached to a helicopter. The mission, dubbed “There and Back Again,” also deployed 34 satellites into orbit on Monday.
Electron missile took off From the Rocket Lab launch complex on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand at 6:49pm EST yesterday. Shortly after launch, the rocket’s first stage (the first of its two engines) separated from the second stage, which was then Delivering satellite payloads to orbit.
Its mission completed, then the first stage returned to Earth, and dashed through atmosphere at speeds of up to 5,000 miles per hour. The dedicated Sikorsky S-92 had previously taken up position over the Pacific Ocean OPeople are waiting. When the booster fell, two parachutes were deployed in a row, slowing it down to a manageable speed. The helicopter pierced the parachute line with a hook when the booster was 6,500 feet above the surface.
Although the helicopter was supposed to carry the missile booster ashore, its pilots decided so drop it in the ocean, which they did upon noticing “different payload characteristics” from those experienced during previous test flights, according to For the Rocket Lab version. The pilots “released him after the delivery because they weren’t happy with the way [the helicopter] It was flying,” Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab books on Twitter. “But it is not important, the missile has fallen safely and the ship is now loading it,” he added.
The company seeks to recover and reuse Electron’s rocket boosters for future launches, primarily by avoiding water damage to the engine from falling water in the ocean. Rocket Lab wants to cut costs of spaceflight by reusing its boosters, similar to how SpaceX reuses it Falcon 9 . rocketthough SpaceX does so by having its boosters perform vertical landings on landing pads or offshore platforms.
Monday’s mission marked the first time that Rocket Lab has attempted to capture a booster rocket as it returns from space. The company had previously recovered and analyzed three of its rocket boosters from the ocean, which reported the design of the atmospheric return shield.
“Returning a rocket from space and catching it with a helicopter is a kind of supersonic ballet,” Beck said in a statement. “From here we will evaluate the phase and determine what changes we may want to make to the system and procedures for the next helicopter hunt and eventually return flight.”
As of yesterday’s launch, Rocket Lab has now deployed a total of 146 satellites into low Earth orbit for NASA, the US Space Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, and others. This latest payload has included satellites designed to monitor light pollution, demonstrate technologies for removing space waste, and enable the Internet from space.