“What we’re trying to achieve with Electron is an incredibly difficult and complex challenge, but one we’re willing to pursue to further boost launch cadence and deliver even more frequent launch opportunities to small satellite operators,” Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, said in a statement published Thursday.
“Bringing a whole first stage back intact is the ultimate goal, but success for this mission is really about gaining more data, particularly on the drogue and parachute deployment system,” Beck added.
The Electron rocket for the Return to Sender mission will lift off from a launch complex in New Zealand to deploy into orbit 30 payloads for small satellite clients. The retrieval attempt for the vehicle’s first stage will be the mission's second objective.
The first stage will deploy a drogue parachute to decelerate its entry back to Earth once it separates from the second stage at an altitude of approximately 80 kilometers and then will field the main parachute to facilitate a controlled splashdown. A recovery vessel will be used to retrieve the first stage for inspection at Rocket Lab’s production complex.
The rocket’s first stage has a reaction control system, guidance and navigation hardware, onboard flight computer systems and S-band telemetry to facilitate recovery efforts.