Rocket Lab Plans To Launch Another Electron While Doubling Down On Sea Booster Recovery.
The latest action taken by Rocket Lab to advance its reusability program will be a second marine recovery attempt of the rocket’s booster on its next Electron mission.
The mission, which will be called “Baby Come Back,” will launch from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The launch window must begin by July 14. The Electron rocket will launch several customer payloads into space as part of the mission, including a four-CubeSat mission for NASA; two Spire Global radio frequency satellites; and a satellite for Space Flight Laboratory’s demonstration.
Starling, the NASA mission, will test “swarm” satellite technologies, such as onboard relative navigation and autonomous maneuvering.
Rocket Lab will attempt a “marine recovery” of the Electron booster following launch, using a parachute to control the stage’s splashdown in the ocean and a custom vessel to retrieve it. The booster will then be returned to the company’s production complex for evaluation and, hopefully, reconditioning in preparation for subsequent flights.
Two distinct methods for recovering electron boosters have been developed concurrently by Rocket Lab: marine recuperation, as illustrated above, and getting the sponsor midair utilizing a particular helicopter. The latter is not nearly as difficult as it sounds. The business has tried the helicopter method twice, with the first attempt only partially successful (the helicopter grabbed the booster but released it right away). One of the helicopter pilots called off the catch on the second attempt due to a brief loss of booster telemetry data.
During previous missions, the company has recovered the stage from the ocean. In April, Rocket Lab approved the launch of a pre-flying Rutherford engine, marking the first time one of the company’s Rutherford engines will travel twice into space. Rocket Lab stated that Electron is resistant to splashdown in the ocean in its announcement regarding the engine reuse.
The company stated in the statement, “Extensive analysis of returned stages shows that Electron withstands an ocean splashdown,” and it anticipated that future complete stages would pass qualification and acceptance testing for re-flight with minimal refurbishment. As a consequence of this, Rocket Lab is proceeding with marine operations as the primary strategy for recovering Electron for a subsequent flight.