(ORDO NEWS) — The booster reuse milestone for Rocket Lab could be as early as April 19, 2022. The California-based company is working to make its two-stage Electron rocket partially reusable. The plan involves capturing the first stages of Electron falling from the sky using a helicopter.
The Electron rocket is due to send 34 satellites into orbit on April 19 for the purposes of the company’s various clients, but the return of the booster to Earth may generate the most interest and resonance.
About an hour before launch, Rocket Lab will move a specialized Sikorsky S-92 helicopter to a capture position about 280 kilometers off the coast of New Zealand.
If all goes according to plan, the Electron stages will separate about 2.5 minutes after launch; the second stage will continue to place satellites into orbit, while the first stage will return to Earth.
The first stage will deploy a drag chute when it is about 13 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean, and then deploy a second, larger main chute at an altitude of 6 kilometers.
The parachutes will reduce the booster’s rate of descent to about 36 kilometers per hour. This will be an acceptable speed for a helicopter that will fly up and try to hook the hook onto the parachute line.
Sikorsky will then bring the booster to the ground for analysis, including an assessment of its reusability.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Rocket Lab will be up to the task on the first try.
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