The company said Tuesday it will deploy a helicopter to attempt to catch a falling booster in support of its goal to market Electron as a reusable small rocket.
“A reusable Electron means more rockets and launch opportunities for better access to space for satellite customers,” noted Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab.
The upcoming operation follows a demonstration of helicopter shadow operations on Nov. 18 with the Electron rocket. The helicopter tracked and retrieved the booster’s first stage, which reentered the atmosphere via a parachute, during a mission for geospatial intelligence company BlackSky. Recovery personnel retrieved the booster stage within 80 minutes after lift-off.
Rocket Lab’s New Zealand-based Production Complex is now analyzing the booster to provide input for future recovery missions.
The recent mission’s success prompts Rocket Lab to attempt airborne booster capture through a helicopter equipped with additional fuel tanks for extended flight.
The rocket to be used in the next mission will feature a thermal protection system and nine Rutherford engines meant to resist 2,400 degrees Celsius of reentry heat.