The US space company Rocket Lab has come closer to reusing the first stage of its Electron orbital launch vehicle. In a test off the New Zealand coast, it was possible to capture a special model that matched the actual level in terms of design and weight with a helicopter. However, the rocket did not have to make a start.
For the test, the test body was brought to a height not specified by a helicopter and released there. Then a parachute opened with a safety rope, which a second helicopter captured at a height of around 1,500 m in the first attempt. However, this is only one of two ways to bring the first rocket stage to the ground safely.
The alternative Rocket Lab plans to test it according to previous plans at the end of 2020. Then an electron rocket will launch from its own spaceport in New Zealand, around 350 km northeast of Wellington. The stage separated in the course of the ascent then returns to earth. A parachute is supposed to reduce the speed so far that the step lands gently in the South Pacific. The company then plans to collect the stage by ship for further evaluation.
Rocket Labs already carried out re-entry tests in late 2019 and early 2020. The reaction control system of the first stage ensured an optimal flight position and braked it from more than 7000 to only 900 km / h.
Reusable stage and engines from the 3D printer
The multiple use of the first rocket stage is an important building block for comparatively cheap launches – in addition to the use of engines from the 3D printer. A launch of the maximum three-stage electron rocket is said to cost only about $ 4.9 million. The maximum payload is 225 kg, which the rocket can transport into a sun-synchronous orbit. It competes with the Russian Start-1, among others, which is estimated to cost around $ 8 million for takeoffs.
Several space companies are working on reusable rocket stages. The Falcon Heavy rocket from the US company SpaceX has three stages that can be used multiple times. However, these do not use a parachute, but their own engines for a controlled landing.
. (tagsToTranslate) rocket technology (t) rocket test (t) Rocket Lab