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Rocket Lab Test Fires Reused Rutherford Engine

By | September 2, 2022

A refurbished Rutherford completed 200 seconds of engine fire. Photo: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab successfully test fired a reused Rutherford first stage engine, a milestone in its work to make Electron a reusable launch vehicle. 

The refurbished engine passed all acceptance tests during a full duration, full-thrust test fire the week of Sept. 1, including 200 seconds of engine fire and multiple restarts. Data from the test fire shows the engine produced full thrust of 21kNs within 1000 milliseconds of ignition and performed to the same standard of a newly-built Rutherford engine. 

“Being able to refly Electron with minimal refurbishment is the ultimate goal, and so the fact that the recovered components on this engine performed on the test stand with minimal rework is further validation that we’re on the right path,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said. “If we can achieve this high level of performance from engine components recovered from the ocean, then I’m optimistic and incredibly excited about what we can do when we bring back dry engines under a helicopter next time.”

The engine previously launched a rideshare mission in May. Rocket Lab caught the engine returning to Earth with a helicopter, but released it for an ocean landing, where it was collected by boat. Rocket Lab plans to attempt helicopter engine recovery again before the end of the year, but did not name a specific upcoming launch.