An airline company just performed a one-of-a-kind performance over New Zealand. Using helicopters, Rocket Lab experts were able to successfully catch the missile falling in the air. The CEO of the California-based company beautifully called this performance a “sonic ballet“.
This is part of Rocket Lab’s effort to cheaply recover rockets, in order to recycle them in future flights.
After sending 34 satellites into orbit at 10:50 a.m. local time, the booster rocket unit as tall as a 4-story building fell to Earth. The device, called Electron, turns on the parachute to slow down the landing speed, falling slowly at a speed of about 35 km / h.
Off the coast of New Zealand is a helicopter waiting with a long cable, aiming to capture Electron before it falls. The helicopter successfully hooked up with the rocket in the cheers of Rocket Lab staff watching the stream at the headquarters.
However, the cheers soon turned to regrets when the helicopter had to drop the booster rocket parts into the sea. “Differences in the nature of the parcel” between test and reality led the pilot to choose the safe solution.
Rocket Lab caught the missile in mid-air, then had to release it again.
Peter Beck, Founder and President of Rocket Lab commented: “Bringing a rocket back from space and capturing it by helicopter is more or less akin to a hypersonic ballet. A large number of factors had to come together, many systems had to work seamlessly together, so I’m really proud of the efforts of the missile recovery team and the engineers who helped with this mission, also the first missile capture, successful“.
After hitting the water, the booster rocket parts were quickly recovered by the rescue ship. Thanks to the control system located on the Electron, the post-collision damage is negligible. Rocket Lab will assess the damage to see if Electron can go up again.
The recycling of booster parts will significantly reduce the cost of each flight. If this part can be caught before it falls into the sea and gets soaked in salt water, the ability to reuse will be much higher.
It is expected that later this month, Rocket Lab will make another flight into space.