Rocket Lab to Attempt Helicopter Recovery of Electron Mid-Stage This Week
Commercial launch services company Rocket Lab will attempt to catch the mid-stage engine of the next rocket it launches into space with a helicopter as it returns to Earth. The company said on Wednesday that it will attempt the complex maneuver during its 32nd Electron rocket mission, “Catch Me If You Can,” which is scheduled for a launch window opening on November 4.
Rocket Lab will use the parachute line of a modified Sikorsky S-92 helicopter to catch and secure the mid-stage of its Electron rocket. As the Electron rocket enters the “capture zone,” the recovery helicopter will match the rocket’s speed and descent from above and attempt to secure the trailing parachute engagement line to the helicopter via a hook at the end of a long line. The helicopter will then bring the captured stage back to its production complex in Auckland, New Zealand to be processed and assessed by engineers and technicians for possible re-use.
The upcoming recovery effort follows Rocket Lab’s helicopter catch of an Electron’s first stage engine in May, during a mission titled “There And Back Again” — a fitting reference to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Hobbit.”
The Electron used for the “Catch Me If You Can” mission will carry a science research satellite built by space systems provider OHB Sweden for the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA). The Mesospheric Airglow/Aerosol Tomography and Spectroscopy (MATS) satellite was originally due to fly on a Russian launch service before the mission was moved to Rocket Lab following the invasion of Ukraine.