The Electron booster is coming to the company’s combat helicopter showroom.
rocket lab CEO Peter Beck announced the company’s first attempt on Monday to capture an Electron missile using a helicopter after its launch, calling it “exceptional,” telling CNBC. The test met “99%” of the company’s missile reuse goals.
Yesterday it was a show that everything works – everything is possible. You can successfully control a file and re-enter it [rocket] Get it out of space and put it under a canopy…then get out and get it back in the air in a helicopter.”
Rocket Lab wants to make its rocket boosters reusable, like the ones in Elon Musk SpaceX, but with very different approach. Following the launch of an Electron rocket from New Zealand on Monday, the company used a helicopter to disable a parachute that was slowing down the rocket as it returned to Earth.
SpaceX uses its rocket engines to slow down during re-entry and deploys wide legs to land on large platforms.
Beck said that while the Rocket Lab helicopter was “well-coupled” and began flying in its booster load, the helicopter pilot saw that the booster payload was different from previous tests and launched the booster missile, which crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The booster was then ejected from the water by the Rocket Lab spacecraft. Beck said the missile was in “excellent condition” and the pilot “made the right decision.”
Beck noted that the Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter is capable of lifting 5,000 kg, with the Electron booster weighing “just under 1,000 kg.” Beck said that while the test has a “large margin,” Rocket Lab used “really conservative estimates” to maximize safety while hunting. The helicopter is led by a crew of three: a pilot, co-pilot and controller.
By making your thrusters reusable, Rocket Lab will be able to launch more frequently while lowering the cost of materials per task.
Beck revealed that the Electron booster accounts for between 70% and 80% of the vehicle’s total cost. Reusing it will generate significant savings for the company and reduce the number of boosters it needs to produce.
Rocket Lab will take the Electron booster back to its factory to take it apart, inspect it, and begin the refurbishment process for the next flight.
While Beck cautioned that the company needs to “run multiple tests” on the booster, Rocket Lab will “try to launch it again” — in what would be the first launch of a reused rocket.
Beck estimates that half of Rocket Lab’s missions will use reusable missiles. Night launches, when the helicopter is not flying, or launches that require full missile capability, reduce that number. (Rocket Lab loses about 10% of the electron carrying capacity in its reusable configuration.)
“Reuse is an iterative process. As we saw with SpaceX — initially it was six months or so, then look at what it is now: It takes weeks to transform,” Beck said.
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