Rocket Lab, the aerospace company, is intensifying its efforts in booster recovery with its upcoming Electron launch. This marks another significant step in their reusability program. The mission, aptly named "Baby Come Back," is set to take off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, with the launch window opening no earlier than July 14.
During this mission, the Electron rocket will deploy multiple customer payloads into space, including a 4 CubeSat mission for NASA, two radio frequency satellites for Spire Global, and a demonstration satellite for Space Flight Laboratory. Of particular interest is NASA's Starling mission, which aims to test swarm satellite technologies and autonomous maneuvering capabilities.
Following the launch, Rocket Lab plans to carry out a marine recovery of the Electron booster. This process involves using a parachute to facilitate a controlled splashdown of the booster in the ocean, after which a specially designed vessel will retrieve it. The retrieved booster will then be transported back to Rocket Lab's production complex for thorough analysis and potential refurbishment, preparing it for future missions.
Rocket Lab has been exploring two distinct techniques for booster recovery: marine recovery and midair retrieval using a dedicated helicopter. While the helicopter method poses considerable challenges, the company has made progress in recovering boosters from the ocean in previous missions. In fact, Rocket Lab recently approved the launch of a pre-flown Rutherford engine, demonstrating the Electron's ability to withstand ocean splashdown.
With careful analysis and engineering efforts, Rocket Lab aims to minimize refurbishment requirements for boosters retrieved through marine recovery. This approach holds promise for cost-effective refurbishment, positioning Rocket Lab for success in reusability.
As Rocket Lab focuses on advancing its booster recovery capabilities, the marine recovery method offers a more practical and straightforward approach. By leveraging the lessons learned from previous missions, and with a keen eye on refurbishment costs, Rocket Lab aims to solidify its position in the industry as a leader in reusable rocket technology.