The Rocket Lab company sent 30 communications satellites (and a gnome of the creator of Dota 2) into space this Thursday and managed to recover the rocket for future reuse thanks to a series of parachutes.
Electron, the company’s rocket, is used to launch small probes into low Earth orbit. In its previous 15 launches, a new system was used for each of them, but the company now intends to try to save most of the rocket for later missions.
The envisioned plan is that, at a certain altitude, the Electron will deploy a collapsible parachute and a main parachute to slow its fall. As the rocket slowly descends to Earth, Rocket Lab sends out a helicopter to hold onto the parachute line, effectively trapping the vehicle from the air and preventing the hardware from hitting the ocean.
During this sixteenth launch, Rocket Lab practiced those steps, including parachute deployment, after launching the Electron from the company’s main facility in New Zealand. However, the company skipped the final step of snatching the Electron out of the air and the rocket eventually landed in the Pacific Ocean.
Rocket Lab plans to pull the Electron rocket out of the water and take the hardware to a factory for detailed examination.
The successful landing of the Electron’s first stage brought California-based Rocket Lab closer to reusing rocket boosters, which the company says will allow it to launch missions at a faster cadence and potentially reduce costs.
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