Rocket Lab caught the accelerator of its rocket in the air with a helicopter. The tests took place over the open ocean in New Zealand and were found to be successful, the company said.
SpaceX’s reusable rocket technology is already being used by Ilona Mask, but the company’s rockets use a different design when launching. With the help of maneuverable engines, they brake and land on a floating platform.
Rocket Lab uses “aerothermal retardation” for the same purpose. After the rocket leaves the atmosphere at a speed of 8.5 times the speed of sound, it will have to slow down to 0.01 speed of sound in just 70 seconds.
After that, the first stage will have to throw out parachutes and smoothly descend to a height where, using a special cable with a grip, the helicopter crew will pick it up.
In early April, the company conducted the first tests of accelerator capture technology using a helicopter. During testing, the first stage Electron rocket mannequin was lifted by helicopter over the open ocean and then dropped. The accelerator opened the parachute, and at a height of several tens of meters above the Earth, a second helicopter caught it – they succeeded in capturing it on the first attempt.