Rocket Lab Wants To Catch a Falling Scorching Hot Rocket with a Helicopter

By: | May 6th, 2022

Image courtesy: Rocket Lab

Traditionally, rockets are treated as trash once they’ve taken off, because rocket companies use their rockets just once, effectively wasting hardware that cost millions of dollars.

Taking the biggest leap toward cheap space transportation, SpaceX has already pioneered the reusable booster technology by re-flying its rocket boosters multiple times.

SpaceX has competition now!

A Long Beach, California-based company Rocket Lab USA Inc is also looking to join SpaceX in slashing the cost of spaceflight by reusing its rockets. But Rocket Lab has a very different approach

Rocket Lab’s mission is nothing short of extraordinary

While SpaceX’s reusable rockets reignite its engines to return to Earth, Rocket Lab’s first-of-its-kind recovery attempt could rescue a falling rocket booster with a helicopter.

As the booster glides toward Earth, a chopper with two pilots sidles up nearby and takes hold of its parachute cord with a hook.

The company plans to deploy a Sikorsky-92 helicopter to catch its 39-foot-tall (11.9-meters-tall) booster.

Here is how?

The company’s Electron booster will not disintegrate on re-entry due to the addition of heat shielding added to protect it from temperatures of roughly 2,400 °C. 

But the booster must reduce its speed from 8.5 times the speed of sound and get down to 0.01-times the speed of sound in about 70 seconds.

Once the booster nears the Earth’s surface, the rocket will deploy two parachutes that will slow it down to 22.3 mph. This is when the helicopter will approach it and hook it.

Rocket Lab released a short video showing helicopter catching a dummy rocket successfully:

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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