Avoiding missile reuse is a dead end product

Taking a look at the company’s manufacturing facility, one can see a series of Electron boosters with typical black carbon fiber rockets in the foreground and a metallic-looking reusable booster in the center.

Rocket laboratory

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck was once confident that his company would never reuse its rockets like Elon Musk’s SpaceX – to the point where Beck promised to eat his hat.

After a few sips of the mixed hat, Beck drastically changed his tune. Rocket Lab has nearly completed a development program that uses helicopters to hijack Electron boosters after launches, and the company is developing its reusable Neutron rocket when it debuts in 2024.

“I think anyone who is not developing a reusable launch vehicle at the moment is developing a dead-end product because it is so obvious that this is a fundamental approach that needs to be implemented from day one,” Beck told reporters during a press conference. on Tuesday.

Beck’s statement matches sentiment Musk, who told CNBC in response to a video on rebuilding at Rocket Lab that “full and rapid reuse is the holy grail of orbital rocketry.”

Traditionally, rockets that launch satellites and spaceships are disposable – meaning that the launch vehicle, which is the largest and most expensive part of the rocket that lifts it from the ground, is thrown away after launch. SpaceX has used orbital-class rocket boosters for the first time: Musk’s company regularly lands its Falcon boosters after launches and reuses them up to 10 times each.

Composite image showing the Falcon 9 launch vehicle taking off and landing back near the launch pad minutes later.


Next year they will catch a rocket from a helicopter

A close look at the Electron reusable rocket booster.

Rocket laboratory

Rocket Lab uses a new thermal shielding system on its Electron accelerator to amplify it for extraction, a type of graphite that makes a carbon fiber rocket “almost metallic,” Beck said.

After Rocket Lab completes its recovery testing program, Beck expects “about 50% of Electron’s flights will be reusable, not expendable.” The main goal of Rocket Lab in missile reuse remains to increase production.

Recalling 2021, in which his company has completed five launches so far, Beck said the year was “terrible” and “really, really hard.” He described New Zealand’s Covid isolation procedures as a major concern for the company, saying they slowed down the company’s production and schedule.

But Rocket Lab is gearing up to bounce back next year.

“We have several launch vehicles on the floor and we have a very, very busy year in 2022,” Beck said.

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