Back in November, Rocket Lab of New Zealand successfully tested the first-stage recovery parachute system. The mission was one of three planned tests the company said would put it on the path to make its electron rockets reusable. Next month, it will conduct the second of those tests after completing its 20th electron launch of the year.
The Running Out of Toes mission would take an electron rocket to orbit two planetary satellites. After separating from its counterpart, the craft’s booster phase will begin to make its way to the planet’s surface. It is at this point that Rocket Lab hopes to validate its previous findings and test a new heat shield that has been heated to 4,352 degrees Fahrenheit to protect the electron from temperatures. The craft will first enter the engines of the atmosphere. It would deploy a drug parachute first to slow its descent, followed by a sphere that would once be closer to the sea surface. If all goes according to plan, a ship will retrieve the vehicle from Complex 1 of Rocket Lab on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, about 403 miles from the coast.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement.
The company’s final recovery plan for Electron is to employ helicopters so that rockets can be caught in the middle. Last April, a demonstration was made of what it would look like, with a test that saw a helicopter drop a dummy rocket from 8,000 feet above the sea, only 3,000 feet down to hold it for another. Meanwhile, its upcoming neutron rocket will offer a fully reusable first stage that can land on an ocean platform.