Rocket Lab, a New Zealand space launch company, has become the first to capture a rocket stage in the air with the help of a helicopter.
The mission, called “There And Back Again”, was considered partially successful because the idea was for the equipment to arrive ashore by helicopter to be reused in future launches. However, he had to be released into the sea. (see further below).
The reused rocket, especially the heaviest one, is a priority objective for the aerospace industry, especially for satellite operators who want to increasingly reduce costs.
The trend in the sector was started by billionaire Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, who invested in the system that is capable of launching the same vehicle into space more than once and landing anywhere. For the tycoon, this is how man will colonize Mars.
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Rocket Lab tests to capture part of rocket with helicopter – Photo: Disclosure / Rocket Lab
The Electron rocket was launched on Monday night (2), Brasília time – Tuesday morning in New Zealand. The spacecraft’s second stage separated from the thrusters and carried 34 small satellites into Earth orbit.
The first stage of the rocket returned to the ground with a speed of 10 meters per second and ended up being trapped by a parachute.
That’s when the helicopter crew swung into action, swinging a line with a hook below the helicopter to attach it to the booster parachute. (see video above).
Afterwards, the crew took the rocket. The roller coaster of emotions was showcased on the event’s live stream, with people in mission control cheering the moment the rocket was captured.
However, the load on the helicopter exceeded the test and simulation parameters. They then had to abandon him for safety reasons. With that, the first stage of the rocket fell into the ocean, where it was picked up by a waiting boat.
Rocket Lab captures part of rocket with helicopter — Photo: Disclosure / Rocket Lab
Even with the crash into the ocean, company founder Peter Beck hailed the mission as a success, saying almost everything went according to plan.
“Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is a kind of supersonic ballet. A huge number of factors need to align and many systems need to work together flawlessly, so I’m incredibly proud of the stellar efforts of our recovery team and all of our engineers who made this mission and our first capture a success.” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck on the company’s official website.
Rocket launched by the company Rocket Lab — Photo: Disclosure / Rocket Lab