follows in the footsteps of by putting in quite a bit of effort to recycle its missiles. The start-up with facilities in the US and New Zealand will attempt to recover the first stage of one of its Electron missiles for the first time on a mission scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 1
After strengthening a number of small satellites – and– Towards a mission runway, aptly named Return to Sender, the first phase will separate and parachute to a controlled soft-water landing in the Pacific Ocean. From there, the floating missile is retrieved by a salvage vessel.
Retrieving a missile using parachutes is not a new concept. It’s something NASA has been pursuing in the not-too-distant past. And arguably it’s not as dramatic as the propulsive landing system SpaceX uses, but this is just a stepping stone to bigger plans involvingduring the descent by helicopter.
“What we are trying to achieve with Electron is an incredibly difficult and complex challenge, but one that we want to pursue to further increase launch cadence and bring launch opportunities even more frequently to small satellite operators,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO , said in a statement.
Rocket Lab demonstrated a counterfeit missile with a helicopter in the sky in April.
Taking the booster out of the air avoids the possibility of damage from a water landing and floating around in salt water for a while.
“Bringing back an entire first stage intact is the ultimate goal, but the success of this mission is actually getting more data, especially about the drogue and parachute deployment system,” explained Beck. “No matter what state the stage returns to, we will learn a lot from this test and use it to repeat forward for the next attempt.”
The launch window for the Return to Sender mission from the company’s New Zealand launch site began on November 15, but has been postponed a few times due to weather.
We have a live feed of the recovery mission here, so you can watch it live. Coverage starts about half an hour before launch.