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Rocket Lab aims to bring reusable rocket from space




The Electron rocket. Photo courtesy of Rocket Lab.

On its next mission, Long Beach-based Rocket Lab will attempt to bring back a rocket from space, the company said Thursday. The mission is the first step in making his Electron rocket the first small, reusable orbital-class launcher.

Reuse is difficult for any launcher, but it’s a particularly complex challenge for small rockets, CEO Peter Beck said in the announcement.

The mission, dubbed Running Out of Toes, is expected to launch in Mau from the Rocket Labs New Zealand complex. While the second stage of launchers delivers its payload of small satellites, the first stage will undergo a series of complex maneuvers allowing it to reenter Earth’s atmosphere.

The electron will slow down from speeds exceeding Mach 8 nearly 6,000 miles per hour, heating the air around it to around 2,400 degrees Celsius as it moves through the atmosphere before splashing into the ocean to get well.

The Electron has an advanced heat shield designed to protect the motors and keep burning plasma away from the rocket upon re-entry, according to the announcement.

After entering the atmosphere, the rocket will deploy a special parachute, which was first tested during the company’s Return to Sender mission in November. Once the speed has been reduced below hypersonic levels, another chute will deploy to further slow the craft, lessening the impact with the water.

Electron is already America’s second most frequently launched rocket, Beck said. Reusability will allow us to further increase the pace of launch by giving our customers access to space on demand.

The May mission will be the 20th undertaking since its premiere in January 2018. Running Out of Toes will deliver two Earth observation satellites for the global surveillance constellation of geospatial intelligence firm BlackSkys.

Rocket Lab has a new launcher, the Neutron, in development, which will be designed for a propulsive landing, which means that the engines re-ignite upon reentry and allow the rocket to land vertically on a platform. oceanic form.

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