Rocket Lab captured a booster in mid-air with a helicopter but had to drop it in the ocean

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,227   +158
Staff member
Recap: Elon Musk's SpaceX pioneered the idea of reusable rocket boosters. Both SpaceX and space tourism company Blue Origin have largely perfected a system that allows their boosters to land upright and intact for repeat use, greatly reducing the cost associated with missions to space.

On Monday, aerospace company Rocket Lab was partially successful in its mission to capture its Electron orbital launch vehicle mid-air using a helicopter.

The mission, dubbed "There And Back Again," launched from Pad A at Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula. It successfully deployed 34 satellites into space on behalf of multiple clients, but the real test was whether or not the company could execute a novel idea involving capturing the rocket booster mid-air as it fell back to Earth.

Rocket Lab took a slightly different approach. Instead of having its booster land on its own, the spent rocket deployed a drogue parachute and then a larger main chute. A Sikorsky S-92 helicopter with a hook on a long line was sent out to snag the parachute line.

The hope was to safely fly the booster back to land, but the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than experienced in testing and decided to drop the booster into the ocean.

"Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is something of a supersonic ballet," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.

"A tremendous number of factors have to align and many systems have to work together flawlessly, so I am incredibly proud of the stellar efforts of our Recovery Team and all of our engineers who made this mission and our first catch a success."

Rocket Lab recovered the booster and will send it back to its facility for analysis.

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PEnnn

Posts: 803   +938
"The hope was to safely fly the booster back to land, but the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than experienced in testing and decided to drop the booster into the ocean.

"Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is something of a supersonic ballet," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck."

Why not save yourselves, and especially Musky, major embarrassment and let the poor booster drop itself into the ocean (as 99% usually do)??

Sheesh!!
 

sdsdv10

Posts: 16   +30
"The hope was to safely fly the booster back to land, but the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than experienced in testing and decided to drop the booster into the ocean.

"Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is something of a supersonic ballet," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck."

Why not save yourselves, and especially Musky, major embarrassment and let the poor booster drop itself into the ocean (as 99% usually do)??

Sheesh!!
I have to ask, are you serious or is this a troll???

1) If the booster falls into the ocean, the exposure to salt water will make it pretty much unusable. The idea of catching it in mid-air is to fly it back to land so it doesn't fall into the ocean. Then refurbish and reuse. That is not really possible if it falls into the ocean (the shell might be able to be saved and reused, but the engines would be a total loss and that is where all the money is.

2) Totally baffled by the Musky reference. To you mean Elon Musk??? This article is about Rocket Lab, a totally different company from SpaceX and unrelated to Elon Musk, personally in any way.

Maybe I'm just wasting the bandwidth by replying, but I was genuinely confused by your response.
 

zavrix

Posts: 59   +43
"The hope was to safely fly the booster back to land, but the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than experienced in testing and decided to drop the booster into the ocean.

"Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is something of a supersonic ballet," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck."

Why not save yourselves, and especially Musky, major embarrassment and let the poor booster drop itself into the ocean (as 99% usually do)??

Sheesh!!

Um like yeah man ever heard of recycling, if they can reuse the rocket it will save them a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,797   +7,723
"Bringing a rocket back from space and catching it with a helicopter is something of a supersonic ballet," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.
Assuming you're trying to catch it with a helicopter, and the booster has it main chute fully deployed, I'd hardly call that, "a supersonic ballet". Although granted, you do have to be there at the landing zone and be very lucky.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,797   +7,723
1) If the booster falls into the ocean, the exposure to salt water will make it pretty much unusable. The idea of catching it in mid-air is to fly it back to land so it doesn't fall into the ocean. Then refurbish and reuse. That is not really possible if it falls into the ocean (the shell might be able to be saved and reused, but the engines would be a total loss and that is where all the money is.
Well no, it's the engines that have to be replaced. With liquid fuel boosters, the carcass and the tanks are what you're trying to save. Anything near the thrust nozzles is questionable.at best.

In the case of solid fuel boosters, they burn from the top down and have to be gutted and rebuilt completely.

And yes, the space shuttle SRBs were recovered after a salt water bath. The salt water bath was the very least of the issue. In fact, they floated them alongside the recovery boat.
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,597   +1,422
I have to ask, are you serious or is this a troll???

1) If the booster falls into the ocean, the exposure to salt water will make it pretty much unusable. The idea of catching it in mid-air is to fly it back to land so it doesn't fall into the ocean. Then refurbish and reuse. That is not really possible if it falls into the ocean (the shell might be able to be saved and reused, but the engines would be a total loss and that is where all the money is.

2) Totally baffled by the Musky reference. To you mean Elon Musk??? This article is about Rocket Lab, a totally different company from SpaceX and unrelated to Elon Musk, personally in any way.

Maybe I'm just wasting the bandwidth by replying, but I was genuinely confused by your response.
The regime is telling the lowest common denominators in our societies to hate Elon Musk. But these people are so dim that they now hate most electric cars and all US space agencies regardless of the name of the actual company.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,797   +7,723
The regime is telling the lowest common denominators in our societies to hate Elon Musk.
So then, are you trying to tell us that Musk's "groupies", are all of the social elite? While those of us who think he's an a**hole", are lower class?

I don'y like the idea of electric cars, bur I realize that they're an inevitability. I think that Space-X is the most advanced private space company. Of course, look how much NASA gave Musk in money, contracts, and patents, so Space-X. could, "get space research off of the government's books"..

BTW, what "regime" were you referring to?