Rocket Lab Announced Success in Electron Rocket Recovery

Rocket Lab Announced Success in Electron Rocket Recovery

On Rocket Lab’s new launch November 19, the rocket’s first stage made a controlled reentry following stage separation, then released a drogue as well as the main parachute before splashing down about 400 kilometers downrange from its New Zealand launch site, where it was recovered by a boat.

Fremont, CA: Rocket Lab stated its attempt to recover the first stage from its new Electron launch was a “complete success,” but that the company still has a lot to do before it is ready to attempt to reuse the stage.

On Rocket Lab’s new launch November 19, the rocket’s first stage made a controlled reentry following stage separation, then released a drogue as well as the main parachute before splashing down about 400 kilometers downrange from its New Zealand launch site, where it was recovered by a boat

The recovery itself has been executed as planned. “The test was a complete success,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, stated on November 23. “The stage splashed down completely intact. What it proved to us is that this is a feasible approach, and we’re really confident that we can make Electron a reusable launch vehicle from here.”

The several steps in that reentry process went as expected, with the stage splashing down at the targeted location as well as at a speed of nine meters per second. The biggest problem, he mentioned, were rough seas that created a “pretty tough recovery operation” of the stage after splashdown.

That stage has now returned to Rocket Lab’s factory.

One area of improvement, he stated, is the thermal protection system at the base of the stage. “We knew that the thermal protection system on the vehicle was not perfect because we didn’t have the data,” he stated. During reentry, “it got pretty roasty down there, as we kind of expected.” That included heat shield panels that were blown out, exposing the engines.

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