Missile laboratory will complete a critical test of the missile reusability program on its next mission, currently scheduled for mid-November. The starting widow will open on November 16. This is a bit of a surprise as the launch company said it would do this on their 17th flight and the next takeoff is actually the 16th, but the company had a succinct answer as to why they moved the flight schedule up .
This isn't the first test Rocket Lab has done to ensure reusability. After it was announced in August 2019 that the Electron Booster would be restored and re-deployed, Rocket Lab's founder and CEO Peter Beck was originally not on the company's maps Rocket Lab has re-entry guidance and control systems as well as the parachute tested, with which the descent of the booster is to be slowed down as soon as it is back in the earth's atmosphere.
In a video released today, Beck explained the reasons for trying to restore the boosters (essentially to increase the company's production rate by eliminating the need to build a new booster for each flight), as well as the reasons why it wasn't the original Plan (the electron is too small to allow a motor-driven boost back like the Falcon 9 and Blue Origin’s New Shepard used).
However, Beck and his team realized they could use an unconventional approach that would turn the missile around and angled it to survive reentry, coupled with a drogue parachute deployment and a primary parachute combo that slows it down that a helicopter can catch them drifting in mid-air. In this recovery attempt, this hook is not taken into account during the flight, but the booster will hopefully land gently enough on the sea surface, slowed down by the slide, so that a recovery team can pick it up.
Beck says the helicopter catch part isn't actually his biggest concern, as the company has previously shown that part of their approach works in practice. Instead, it ensures that they cannot reach the stage until they have deployed their orbital cargo.
If Rocket Lab can restore this first phase, it will be a long way from having an operational recovery system in place, hopefully resulting in shorter time between launches and possibly lower operating costs.
Regardless of how the start goes, we have the opportunity to discuss the attempt and the next steps with Beck at our first TC Sessions: Space event in December, where he accompanies us on our virtual stage for a fireplace chat.