Rocket Lab Has Successful Launch and Recovers First Stage

Rocket Labs successfully launched 34 satellites and recovered the first stage. The “There And Back Again” mission also saw Rocket Lab complete a mid-air capture of the Electron booster with a helicopter for the first time. After launching to space, Electron’s first stage returned to Earth under a parachute. At 6,500 ft, Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter rendezvoused with the returning stage and used a hook on a long line to capture the parachute line. The mid-air capture is a major milestone in Rocket Lab’s pursuit to make Electron a reusable rocket to increase launch frequency and reduce launch costs for small satellites. After the catch, the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than previously experienced in testing and offloaded the stage for a successful splashdown. The stage is being loaded onto Rocket Lab’s recovery vessel for transport back to the Company’s production complex for analysis and assessment for re-flight as planned.

They deployed 34 satellites and now have successfully taken up 146 satellites to orbit.

The mid-air capture comes after successful recovery operations from Rocket Lab’s 16th, 20th, and 22nd missions, which saw Electron’s first stage execute a controlled ocean splashdown before being returned to Rocket Lab’s production complex. Like those missions, a reaction control system re-oriented the first stage to an ideal angle for re-entry during the “There And Back Again” mission, enabling the stage to survive the incredible heat and pressure during its descent back to Earth. A drogue parachute was deployed to increase drag and to stabilize the first stage as it descended, before a large main parachute was deployed in the final kilometers of descent. “There And Back Again” is the first time a helicopter catch attempt was introduced to recovery operations and today’s mission will inform future helicopter captures.

Rocket Labs is clearly the second most successful space launch company after SpaceX. Rocket Labs has successfully developed new rockets and has recovered first stages.

Blue Origin has gone suborbital. The Blue Origin orbital rocket New Glenn is expected to launch no earlier than 2023. The design work on New Glenn began in 2012.

24 thoughts on “Rocket Lab Has Successful Launch and Recovers First Stage”

  1. Like Musk, all this stuff is designed to be crew rated. Bezos is clearly ahead on this, as Musk is still changing things around. When is Raptor 2 going to Stennis?

  2. No, I think Raptor will, always assuming that the bureaucrats eventually allow a resumption of testing, be crew rated once a sufficient record of trouble free flight performance has been demonstrated.

    Test stand data and calculations are no real substitute for performance in the field. Man rating the BE-4 before it's even been flight tested? How bogus can you get?

  3. So, Musk Raptor will never be crew rated? You are sounding like a socialist denying he is a socialist. Total point misser: "The guys who create the future are the guys who are actually launching things". No, the ones who realize Earth is too limited in resources to have very much to launch. O'Neill. The children in the video above mentioned, they know more than Musk.

  4. "When will that be true for Musk Raptor?"

    When Musk spends as much money on bribes as Bezos, or NASA gives up on Bezos' wonder engine actually going into production.

  5. The following are about a crew rated engine. When will that be true for Musk Raptor? Bezos has been to Space on a part of the New Glenn, the second stage engine, used for New Shepard as a test.

    Earlier this year, a BE-4 flight-configuration engine gimballed 8 degrees while operating at 100% power level.

    PQE-802 characterized unit to unit variation in the different flight-configuration builds. This engine configuration achieved sustained 104% power level operation (572,000 lbf thrust).

    PQE-900 accumulated over 5,000 seconds of test & 36 starts, while completing combustion stability rating, engine gimbal & engine restart. After minor refurbishment, it will be the first BE-4 tested at the historic Marshall Space Flight Center Test Stand 4670 since its renovation.

  6. Again, Bezos has been operating like a hobbyist with an unlimited budget, Musk has been putting payloads into space for years now. It doesn't matter if Bezos' engine looks better on paper! (And it doesn't, actually.) What matters is if it's actually working in rockets. They still haven't test fired one on a rocket, let alone done any flight testing. They're running years late on delivery.

    Sure, Musk started out with Kerosene. He proved out a reusable 1st stage using kerosene! He made money and racked up flight time using kerosene! He learned by doing, using kerosene.

    So you've got the actually working Raptor 2, 230T thrust each, 300 plus bar combustion chamber pressure. Vs the BE-4 at roughly the same thrust, and less than half the chamber pressure. Oh, and only a +/- 5 degree gimbal range, while the Raptor is more like +/- 20 degrees.

    Blue Origin calls the BE-4 the most powerful LNG rocket engine ever developed, but the numbers say Raptor is as good or better.

    Don't be a Bezos fanboy, Dan. The guys who create the future are the guys who are actually launching things, not the guys who have a wiz-bang engine that never flies.

  7. > After the catch, the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than previously experienced in testing and offloaded the stage for a successful splashdown. The stage is being loaded onto Rocket Lab’s recovery vessel for transport…

    So it wasn't quite successful then, if the rocket was allowed to splashdown and is being (has been?) fished from the water. It's an important first step, though.

  8. Methane? You should be aware, as I have told you many times, Bezos skipped that kerosene step. He is ahead on the crew ready methane. Do you understand that?

  9. And BO has yet to launch so much as an ounce into orbit. While Musk is launching almost daily. You know what's better than an engine that's perfect on paper?

    A real engine that's actually being used.

  10. BO has better gas engine than Musk. BO has existing launchpad for New Armstrong, and supporting buildings, in Fla. They dwarf New Glenn in the CG. They have better landing tech, altho Musk has self driving stuff to draw from. Musk is wrong about planets, but more importantly and specifically he is wrong about lifeboats. Another planet????

  11. In the 70's, Dan. I actually founded a chapter of the L-5 society at Michigan Tech.

    But BO is a sad, sad example of what happens when you give people an unlimited budget and no deadlines. All that money and time, and they're still just launching people on glorified sounding rockets. Musk has done a thousand times as much in the real world to advance O'Neill's dream, because he has urgency, even if his goals are not identical.

    They're at least close enough at this point that he's building the infrastructure needed.

  12. Give us a break, already: Until they put something in orbit, they're not a "space" company. BO has a huge lead over rocket hobbyists, until they orbit something, they're not in the same league as even Rocket Labs, they're in Virgin Galactic territory.

    It's a clear embarrassment that BO has been around for longer than SpaceX, and is still mucking around with sub-orbital launches.

  13. Does this change of knowledge sound possible for Musk?
    "Leary's colonization plan varied greatly throughout the years. According to his initial plan to leave the planet, 5,000 of Earth's most virile and intelligent individuals would be launched on a vessel (Starseed 1) equipped with luxurious amenities. In the 1980s, (1977 in person while I wuz there) he came to embrace NASA scientist Gerard O'Neill's more realistic and egalitarian plans to construct giant Eden-like High Orbital Mini-Earths using existing technology and raw materials from the Moon, orbital rock and obsolete satellites."

  14. At first, I did not realize this was a reply to the top Rocket Lab comment, not the SpaceX advert. "Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company" from their own site. Misspelling O'Neill as o'neil or such, or not knowing Rocket Lab is singular, is a sign of denial.

  15. You need a rocket that will launch your sat. If your smallish sat is not going with a bunch of others to the specific orbit needed, you need a smallish rocket. Now! Simple.

  16. "Rocket Labs is clearly the second most successful space launch company after SpaceX." BO is the only one following O'Neill, so has the clear lead amongst *Space*, not *launch* companies. O'Neill could have been started with Mars style stuff, much cheaper and easier than Mars stuff, when Mars stuff was started, or before. Small rockets to the Moon. As O'Neill people such as myself demanded at the time. A big part of O'Neill is realizing that Earth is short of stuff to launch, even with infinite launch, so need to get started on ISMRU decades ago. Also, BO crew rated gas engine is going to Stennis. So when will Musk have one?

    These guys understand!

  17. Bigger rockets are more efficient rockets, up to a point that even SpaceX's Starship doesn't reach. For basic engineering reasons.

    But just reusability in a small rocket puts them ahead of all the competition except SpaceX, and guarantees them as a 2nd source for all payloads that will fit. And that should be enough to finance their growth.

    It's a great day.

    And this really underscores just how sad Blue Origin is, that they STILL haven't put anything into orbit.

  18. Awesome, we need more companies like this. I hope they scale up ASAP.

    They don't need bigger rockets but imagine what a thousand of these could do.

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