Rocket Lab retrieves the Electron missile by helicopter (then drops it over the sea)

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Rocket Lab tried to make history, and it almost worked. The space company launched an Electron rocket from its facility in New Zealand on Monday. Having successfully deployed 34 satellites into orbit, a helicopter recovered the propellant in flight but had to shoot it down.

The “There And Back Again” mission was a good start for Rocket Lab’s missile reuse plans, which deemed the maneuver a success.

The first stage of Electron deployed its parachute as planned, and the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter managed to catch up with it at an altitude of 2 km. However, the helicopter pilot noticed “characteristics of payload” that the Rocket Lab did not experience during its tests, so he decided to release propellant for scattering 278 km off the coast of New Zealand.

The rocket stage fell over the Pacific Ocean softened by a parachute, and was successfully recovered by the Seaworker. Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, posted a photo on Twitter to show that the small launcher’s heat shield did its job during the full-speed re-entry.

“Getting a rocket out of space and catching it with a helicopter is kind of a supersonic ballet,” Beck said. “There are a lot of factors that have to align and a lot of systems have to work together seamlessly, which is why I am so proud of the fantastic efforts of our recovery team and all of our engineers who did the job and our first achievement of such success. We will now look at the stage and determine Changes we may wish to make to the system and procedures for the next pick-up of the helicopter on a new flight.”

Rocket Lab mission 26 departed from platform A at California’s Launch 1 complex On the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The Electron rocket has deployed 34 small satellites from clients such as Alba Orbital, Asterix Astronautics, Aurora Development Technologies and Espace, among others. The insertion was made in a sun-synchronous orbit.

After this mission, Rocket Lab successfully deployed a total of 146 satellites using the small electron launcher. It’s the second most launched American rocket in recent years after SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and now it can follow in its footsteps by reusing its first stage.

The Sikorsky S-92 helicopter is usually used in search and rescue operations, as well as the transportation of oil and fuel. The first stage of the electron returns to Earth at a speed of 8300 km / h, and its parachute opens at an altitude of 13.4 km to reduce its speed to a controllable 35.4 km / h. The helicopter has been modified to attach to the parachute ropes with a hook, and later drop the missile on board what or what Rocket Lab goes to the re-entry site. part One From the operation is already over, we have no doubt about it The next attempt will be completely successful.

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