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Rocket Lab to Attempt 2nd Electron Rocket Recovery Next Month

By | April 9, 2021

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket on the pad at Launch Complex 1. Photo: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab will take another big step to launch vehicle reusability next month, when it makes its second attempt to recover an Electron rocket. The mission, dubbed ‘Running Out of Toes,’ involves an Electron launch from Rocket Lab’s Complex 1 in New Zealand, the deployment of two Earth Observation satellites for BlackSky, re-entrance into Earth’s atmosphere, and a splash down recovery in the ocean.

This will be Rocket Lab’s 20th Electron launch overall and a critical follow-up to its first recovery mission, ‘Return to Sender,’ in November 2020. The ‘Running Out of Toes’ mission will validate findings from the first recovery mission and test Electron’s updated systems and new advanced heat shield.

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“Reusability is hard for any launch vehicle, but it’s a particularly complex challenge for small rockets,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. “The Return to Sender mission proved we could successfully bring Electron back from space. Now it’s about validating re-entry data a second time and starting to introduce the advanced systems that will enable us to launch, catch and repeat. Electron is already the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket. Reusability will enable us to further increase launch cadence giving our customers on-demand access to space.”

If ‘Running Out of Toes’ is successful, Rocket Lab will move into the final phase of its launch recovery program, which involves Electron stages being captured mid-air by a helicopter. While Electron is designed for mid-air capture, Rocket Lab’s newest launch vehicle, the 8,000-kg class Neutron rocket under development, is designed for propulsive landing.