Small satellite launcher Rocket Lab has achieved a milestone by recovering the first stage of the used Electron booster. It came down to Earth with the help of parachutes that guided it gently in the Pacific Ocean. The exercise was part of a complex dress rehearsal to recover rockets of nearly all stages and reuse them in the future. About two hours after the liftoff, the rocket was hauled from the ocean. Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said that once the booster is brought back to the factory, it will be pulled apart to find out how well components in subassemblies performed during the flight. There was a total of 30 satellites that went up with and twenty-four of them were tiny ‘SpaceBees.’
Electron is the primary rocket of Rocket Lab and is used to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit. This version of the rocket has been used for all the 15 launches of the company so far. Entirely new rockets have been used for each of the 15 missions. But Rocket Lab said in 2019 that it will try to save most part of the Electron rocket used in all future launches so that the vehicle can be reused for the subsequent new mission. The company is slowly but steadily achieving its goal by trying new maneuvers during launches.
Achieving reusability is might be a tough task, but once achieved it will bring down the cost of all future Electron missions, Rocket Lab CEO said. On top of that, it will increase the productivity of rockets which in turn will help in more launches. “The biggest advantage is that we will not require building such large vehicles,” Beck said. Rocket Lab is adopting a recovery plan that is quite different from that being used by SpaceX. SpaceX used its unique technique to guide the landing of Falcon 9 rockets either on an autonomous drone ship or on a landing pad.