Within the ongoing quest to sooner or later reuse its rockets after launch, Rocket Lab has efficiently examined out a solution to catch a rocket falling out of the sky utilizing a pair of helicopters. A couple of weeks in the past, the corporate dropped a dummy rocket from one helicopter and caught the falling automobile in midair with one other helicopter, proven in a brand new video launched by Rocket Lab at this time.
The air present, achieved “a number of weeks” in the past, earlier than quarantine restrictions began taking impact, was meant to show a essential a part of Rocket Lab’s plan to finally get better its automobiles. In August, the corporate detailed a solution to primarily catch its Electron rocket when it comes again from house. In response to the plan, the automobile will fall again to Earth after launching to house and information itself down by means of the ambiance. It’s going to then deploy a parachute to gradual its fall, whereas a helicopter snags the parachute line in midair to stop the rocket from hitting the ocean.
The helicopter demonstration confirmed off the final a part of that plan, with a black helicopter efficiently catching the dropped dummy rocket at round 5,000 ft above open ocean. Rocket Lab has already demonstrated different maneuvers wanted to make its Electron rocket reusable as properly. In December and January, the corporate efficiently guided two Electrons as they returned to Earth by means of the ambiance following launches, holding the automobiles intact on the best way again down.
As soon as Rocket Lab places all the steps collectively, the corporate might probably reuse its caught Electron rockets on future flights as an alternative of producing totally new automobiles for every launch. It’s the identical methodology SpaceX has used for its rockets for years now, although the corporate has taken to touchdown its automobiles post-flight as an alternative of catching them.
Rocket Lab should wait to excellent its rocket-catching methodology. The corporate has opted to face down from launches in the intervening time to guard personnel through the pandemic. The corporate says most of its staff are working from residence whereas “just a few important personnel stay at [Rocket Lab’s] services to maintain essential programs operating.”