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Rocket Lab plans to reuse rockets by catching them mid-air with helicopter

Aug 7, 2019, 12:03 pm

A US-based company Rocket Lab has announced its plans to make its rockets reusable. Rocket Lab has announced at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah to make the first stage of its Electron rocket reusable in a significant development for the smallsat launcher market.

The grand goal here is if we can capture the vehicle in wonderful condition, in theory, we should be able to put it back on the pad, charge the batteries up, and go again – Peter Beck, CEO, Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab in a video has demonstrated how its Electron Rocket’s first stage would separate from the upper stage in orbit and after falling back through the atmosphere. Also how it would descend taking the help of a parachute. A helicopter would be used which would fly up to the rocket and use a long cable to attach to the parachute.

The rocket will be then carried back to a ship. Though it might sound similar to Space X, such a technique is different from SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket. However, such a technique is not possible for the smaller Electron, which is about one quarter the size of the Falcon 9 exclaimed Beck.

Satellite operators are now able to make vehicles the size of washing machines or cereal boxes, and those are the sizes of vehicles that Rocket Lab is focussing. Initially, satellites were built the size of school buses.

Beck thought it was impossible to for the Electron to be recovered after launch as it emits heated shock waves when it comes back to Earth. But after several launches, the company gathered enough data for the scientists who came up with something like this that could be done.

Going forward, Rocket Lab will add some significant updates to the Electron and is hopeful of reducing prices of its Electron with reusability eventually.

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