Rocket Lab catches dummy booster with helicopter in dramatic new video
Rocket Lab will attempt to rip a falling rocket booster out of the sky with a helicopter for the first time this week, and a new video shows how it’s all supposed to fall.
The California-based company released a short video on Monday (April 25) showing a recent successful helicopter capture of a dummy rocket. As the booster support slides to Earththe helicopter sneaks nearby and snags its parachute cord with a hook.
“While we await ideal weather conditions for #ThereAndBackAgain, the recovery team conducted capture tests using a Level 1 Mass Simulator. Our pilots make it easy!” rocket lab representatives said on Monday via Twitterwhere they posted the 103 second video.
Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photos)
“There And Back Again” is the name of Rocket Lab’s next mission, which is set to launch no earlier than 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) on Thursday, April 28 from the company’s New Zealand launch site. The planned launch of the company’s two-stage construction electronic rocket has been repeatedly pushed back due to inclement weather, as the tweet mentions.
The main objective of the mission is to fly 34 satellites for a variety of customers. But most space fans will focus on the secondary goal – the successful stumble of the Electron’s return first stage shortly after liftoff, part of Rocket Lab’s effort to return the first stage of the Electron 59 feet tall (18 meters) reusable. .
It will be a big moment for the company; Rocket Lab has successfully guided Electron Boosters back to Earth for gentle ocean splashes on several previous flights, but has never tried to catch one before. (Rocket Lab has performed a number of helicopter problems with dummy boosters, and they have showed us videos of these captures before.)
Rocket Lab landed on the helicopter strategy due to Electron’s size: the booster is too small to have enough fuel after launch to perform powered landings like SpaceX’s first stages. Falcon 9 rockets do, company officials said.
However, Rocket Lab plans to do both vertical and powered booster landings. The company is developing a largest rocket called Neutronwhich is expected to fly for the first time in 2024. Neutron will be large enough to perform propellant touchdowns, and the rocket is designed to be reusable from the start.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on facebook.