Helicopter catches falling Rocket Lab rocket stage

(ORDO NEWS) — Rocket Lab, a private space company that, like SpaceX, is committed to reusable rockets, launched 34 satellites into orbit on May 2, 2022, using its two-stage Electron booster.

Leaving the satellites in orbit, the first Electron stage returned to Earth by parachute. Approximately 15 minutes after launch, as the launch vehicle was descending into the Pacific Ocean, a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter approached it and hooked the parachute line.

Later, the helicopter delivered the booster to the ship, which will return the equipment back to the assembly shop for inspection and analysis.

The launch is part of Rocket Lab’s effort to make Electron’s first stages reusable, which will reduce costs and increase the frequency of launches, the company said.

Electron is too small to carry enough propellant to return to the launch pad on its own, so the company decided to use a helicopter-ship link to return the rocket’s first stage.

Rocket Lab has been steadily approaching its historic May 2nd catch. The company recovered the Electron’s first stages after a soft splashdown in the ocean after the last three launches, and also caught falling booster dummies using a helicopter during a series of tests.

May 2 was the 26th launch for Rocket Lab and Electron, which was delayed several times as Rocket Lab waited for favorable weather in the impact zone, which was about 275 kilometers from the coast of New Zealand.


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