Startup wants to recapture rocket parts with helicopter

SpaceX is probably by far the best-known private space company. But it is certainly not the only one. For example, there is the startup Rocket Lab, which operates its own launch pad in New Zealand. From there, satellites from various customers are sent into space. However, increasing competition is also putting significant cost pressures on aerospace companies. One of the proposed solutions to the problem: reuse of certain rocket parts. SpaceX is considered a role model here. Because the company has already managed to land burned-out rockets on a floating platform in the water. At Rocket Lab, the procedure isn’t that sophisticated. Here the rocket parts end up in the water and are then laboriously fished out again. This is not exactly optimal for obvious reasons. Therefore, a new approach must now be tested.

Image: Rocket Lab

A converted Sikorsky helicopter has to tow the missile

Strictly speaking, the first tests took place two years ago. At the time, the company had two helicopters in the air. One of them was carrying a dummy rocket booster. At one point it was just thrown away. However, a parachute delayed the flight so the other helicopter could catch the piece with a specially designed grappling hook. This explains the idea behind the new approach. On April 19, the feat is to be repeated as part of a real space mission. The plan is to launch an Electron rocket, the first propulsion stage of which will be recaptured after a few minutes using a converted Sikorsky S-92 helicopter. Here too, the fall is first slowed down by a parachute before the helicopter approaches the object and releases its hook. The action takes place about 250 kilometers off the coast of New Zealand.

Recycling is becoming increasingly important in aerospace

So far, Rocket Lab is launching all of its rockets on the island. The long transport routes there are not that important because the company mainly transports small satellites into space. Two more starting locations are also being discussed for the future: one in the United States and one in the Scottish Highlands. However, in the long run, the company can only survive if it also manages to keep costs under control. The reuse of rocket parts plays an important role in this. That is why the experiment that is now taking place is so important. But it is also clear that failure does not automatically mean the end. SpaceX also needed several attempts before it actually succeeded in placing the rocket motor exactly on the platform. In principle, however, there is a huge trend towards multiple uses in private space travel. This will likely continue to be the case in the future.


Startup wants to recapture rocket parts with helicopter