Rocket Lab wants to catch their space rockets with helicopters

The startup Rocket Lab wants to make its Electron rockets reusable by testing an unconventional mechanism. 


Space initiative Rocket Lab  wants to catch its rockets in the air with a helicopter, in a new milestone for the industry.

According to the company, they are looking to trap their Electron rockets , tasked with carrying satellites and payloads into orbit, with helicopters to make them reusable.

The tests begin

Rocket Lab doesn’t want to wait long to start testing this cooldown mechanism and will try it out by trying to catch a unit that sends 34 charges from its New Zealand facility on April 19.

The rocket’s first stage will return before being picked up by a customized Sikorsky S-92 twin-engine helicopter . The helicopter model is conventionally used in offshore oil and gas transportation as well as search and rescue missions, according to a press release.

“Catching a returning rocket stage in the air as it returns from space is a very complex operation that demands extreme precision. Several critical milestones must line up perfectly to ensure a successful catch.

After the first plummeting stage deploys its main parachute at an altitude of about 3.7 miles, a helicopter will try to catch up and capture the stage’s parachute via a hook.

Rocket Lab has previously flown three successful ocean recovery missions in which Electron parachuted back to Earth and recovered from the ocean. Analysis of those missions informed Electron’s design modifications, allowing it to withstand the harsh re-entry environment, and also helped develop procedures for an eventual helicopter capture.

“We have made many successful helicopter captures with replica stages, conducted extensive parachute tests and successfully retrieved the first stage of Electron from the ocean during our 16th, 20th and 22nd missions,” said Rocket Lab Founder and CEO. Peter Beck. “Now is the time to put it all together for the first time and take Electron out of the skies.”