Rocket Lab has managed to get a rocket stage back to Earth for the first time after a successful official mission. An Electron rocket launched thirty satellites into space, after which the first stage of parachutes landed in the sea. It is an important step towards reuse.
The American company Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket from a launch base in New Zealand on the night from Thursday to Friday. The mission was successful: the booster brought thirty small satellites to low Earth orbit. Of these, 24 are ‘Space Bees’, small satellites from the company Swarm Technologies . That company wants to use a constellation of 150 mini satellites to provide IoT equipment with the internet.
What is special about the launch is that Rocket Lab landed the first stage of the Electron rocket. The booster parachuted back to Earth and fell 600 kilometers off the New Zealand coast in the Pacific Ocean. Rocket Lab has now removed the booster from the water and is bringing it ashore by ship. The company will then investigate whether the missile can be reused on a subsequent mission.
It is the first time that Rocket Lab has managed to catch a missile trap during an operational mission. The company had already done this before, but that happened during tests . Rocket Lab is one of the companies working on reusable rockets, following SpaceX. Reusing them reduces the cost of a launch.
Unlike competitor SpaceX, Rocket Lab cannot land its boosters vertically, because the Electron rocket is too small for that. He cannot bring enough fuel for this. Rocket Lab therefore wants to return the boosters to parachutes. Helicopters then have to collect the boosters from the air .