Rocket Lab to recover Electron booster from ocean after Saturday launch - Space.com
May 12, 2021 1 min, 13 secs

The California-based company aims to recover the first stage of the Electron rocket that launches its next mission, which is currently targeted to lift off no earlier than Saturday (May 15) from New Zealand.

Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster in photos.

The goal of such work is to help transition the two-stage Electron from an expendable vehicle, as it was originally designed, to a rocket with a reusable first stage.

"We are more kind of bullish on this than ever before," Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said during a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday (May 11).

Indeed, some parts of that rocket will fly again; the propellant pressurization system from the "Return to Sender" first stage has been incorporated into the "Running Out of Toes" Electron, Beck said.

For example, Rocket Lab has built a hydraulic cradle dubbed ORCA ("Ocean Recovery and Capture Apparatus") that's designed to safely and softly pull the returned booster out of the sea and onto the deck of the recovery ship.

Rocket Lab's ultimate recovery plan involves keeping Electron dry: The company will eventually catch returning boosters (which slow their descent using parachutes) out of the sky with a helicopter.

The Electron first stage on that future mission will feature a new "decelerator" that Beck declined to discuss in detail.

If all goes well with that third splashdown and recovery, Rocket Lab will "seriously consider" moving on to a midair helicopter catch during an orbital mission, Beck added.


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