Rocket Lab picks up a missile mid-flight with a helicopter, it's a first

Rocket Lab picks up a missile mid-flight with a helicopter, it’s a first


New Zealand and American space startup
Rocket Lab It claims to have carried out a daring maneuver to recover one of its Electron missiles using a helicopter over the Pacific Ocean. ”
Trying to catch a missile as it falls to the ground is not an easy task
said Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab. The company has captured replica rockets before using a helicopter, but this is the first time it has been able to catch an Electron rocket falling to Earth after space travel.

The “There and Back Again” mission from the Rocket Lab launch center in New Zealand was to put 34 small commercial satellites into orbit.

About three minutes after the Electron rocket lifted off, its second stage detached and continued to push its payload into orbit. Meanwhile, the first stage began descending back to Earth. The Sikorsky S-92, a twin-engine helicopter often used in drilling or offshore search and rescue operations, was on standby in the capture area off New Zealand, waiting for the missile’s first stage to enter the atmosphere. The latter deployed a stabilizing parachute at an altitude of about 13 kilometers to start the deceleration, followed by its main parachute about 6 kilometers away. The bomber’s speed went from more than 8000 kilometers per hour to only 35 kilometers per hour.

Mixed success but a real achievement

Eleven minutes into the flight, mission control reported that the helicopter’s commander had spotted the missile and parachute. For four long minutes, live footage from Sikorsky only showed a hook hanging from a cable. Finally, after 15 minutes of the mission, the booster and the parachute appeared and the cable managed to get stuck in them. The video does not reveal exactly what will happen next.

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Rocket Lab announced during the live broadcast that the mid-air catch-up attempt was successful, then paused its suspension for 45 minutes before returning to report that the helicopter captain had. You notice different charging characteristics of those planned. Choose the pilot evacuation » Tonnage, meaning that the crane was disposed of to land on the water and retrieved by ships.

In the end, engineers might say that SpaceX’s method of smoothly self-landing a rocket returning from orbit on a boat at sea is the most impressive feat, but the intervention of a pilot to catch a rocket falling to land is undoubtedly astonishing.




CNET.com article adapted from CNETFrance
/ Photo: Rocket Lab


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