Rocket Lab is about to attempt catching a falling rocket with a helicopter

In a world first, Rocket Lab will try to catch its Electron rocket because it falls from area, utilizing a hook mounted on a helicopter


27 April 2022

Captured rocket

An artist’s impression of a captured Electron rocket

Rocket Lab

A US launch firm is about to try a historic first: catching a rocket falling again to Earth in mid-air utilizing a helicopter.

The firm, Rocket Lab, will try the feat from 2235 GMT on 28 April, climate allowing, with one in every of its Electron rockets launched from New Zealand’s Māhia peninsula. The mission, dubbed “There and Back Again”, will see the small rocket carry 34 satellites to Earth orbit, together with one to watch Earth’s mild air pollution.

Two and a half minutes after launching, the primary and second phases of the rocket will separate. While the latter continues to journey to orbit, the previous will fall again to Earth, reaching temperatures of 2400°C and speeds of greater than 8000 kilometres per hour. It will then deploy a parachute to gradual its descent to simply over 35 kilometres per hour, earlier than coming into a “capture zone” above the Pacific Ocean.

Here, a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter operated by Rocket Lab will try to latch on to the parachute with a hook, with the seize anticipated about 18 minutes after launch. If profitable, it’ll then transport the rocket again to land, presumably to be reused on a future mission.

“Trying to catch a rocket as it falls back to Earth is no easy feat,” Rocket Lab’s CEO, Peter Beck, stated in a assertion. “We’re absolutely threading the needle here.”

At 18 metres tall, the Electron rocket is comparatively small, a few quarter of the dimensions of SpaceX’s Falcon 9. Yet Rocket Lab hopes to observe within the footsteps of Elon Musk’s firm by making its rockets reusable to scale back launch prices, albeit through mid-air seize reasonably than touchdown on the bottom or floating barges.

Rocket Lab has already practiced parachuting its rockets again into the ocean on earlier launches, incurring salt injury that made them unable to be reused, and not too long ago captured a dummy rocket with its helicopter.

Mid-air seize has been tried earlier than, maybe most infamously with NASA’s Genesis spacecraft in 2004, which did not deploy its parachute and crash-landed within the Utah desert, damaging its priceless samples of photo voltaic wind.

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