The space systems company Rocket Lab has completed the mid-air recovery test, the movement that includes going through an electron test stage from the sky with a chopper. The successful test by the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch is a huge step in the company’s plans to reuse the first stage of its Electron launch vehicle for a number of missions.
This test was done last month before the stay at home orders and before New Zealand entered lever 4 in the ongoing COVID pandemic crisis. It was done by dropping an Electron first stage test article from a chopper over the open ocean in New Zealand.
It was followed by a parachute being deployed from the stage, before another chopper neared in on the descending stage. The second chopper then captured it in the air at around 5,000 feet, with the help of specially designed grappling hook to snag the drogue line of the parachute. It captured the stage on the first attempt , after which it carried the suspended stage back to land.
The success is company’s latest in the number of achievements as Rocket Lab works for the reusable first stage. Rocket Lab recently launched two missions in December and January respectively. On both occasions the company successfully guided the re-entries of Electron’s first stage.
Issuing a statement on the success, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said, “Congratulations to the recovery team here at Rocket Lab on a flawless mid-air recovery test.”
“Electron has already unlocked access to space for small satellites, but every step closer to reusability is a step closer to even more frequent launch opportunities for our customers,” Beck added.
Till now, Electron has 11 launches under its kitty. All launches took off from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.