Watch Rocket Lab Launch Satellite, Catch Booster With Helicopter On November 4
Update for 12 noon ET: Rocket Lab is now targeting 1:27 PM EDT (1727 GMT) for today’s launch of an Electron booster and the attempted booster recovery by helicopter. The livestream above will start approximately 15 minutes before launch.
Rocket Lab will launch a satellite into orbit on Friday (November 4) trying to catch a falling booster with a helicopter, and you can watch the action live.
Rocket Lab plans to launch a mission called “Catch Me If You Can” from its New Zealand location on Friday, over a 75-minute period beginning at 1:27 p.m. EDT (1727 GMT; 6:15 am on November 4 local time in New Zealand).
You can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of Rocket Lab, or directly through the company (opens in new tab). Coverage begins 20 minutes before launch.
Friday’s main goal is to loft a research satellite for the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA) using a Electron missile, but most viewers will probably be more interested in a secondary goal: the recovery of the Electron’s falling first stage.
Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photos)
Rocket Lab aims to tear the booster out of the sky with a helicopter, a strategy designed to prevent the vehicle from being submerged in corrosive seawater and to facilitate delivery back to solid ground for analysis and possible reuse.
The 18-meter high Electron, a small satellite launch vehicle with 31 missions to date, is currently a fully replaceable vehicle. Restoring and reusing the first stage would allow Rocket Lab to increase its flight speed and reduce costs, company representatives said.
Electron is too small to perform powered vertical landings like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy do boosters; it does not have enough fuel left after launch for such maneuvers. So Rocket Lab decided to go with the helicopter, which grabs Electron’s parachute line with a hook as the booster descends.
Rocket Lab has made some progress toward its reusability goal. For example, it has already performed one helicopter recovery, on a mission in May of this year called “Back and forth.” (Rocket Lab likes to give its flights playful names, as you may have noticed.)
During that mission in May, the helicopter — a Sikorsky S-92 — successfully grabbed the Electrons, only to accidentally drop them into the potion shortly after.
Rocket Lab fished the rocket out of the sea and towed it back to shore by boat. The company analyzed the booster flown, then refurbished and tested one of its nine Rutherford engines, with promising results.
“The refurbished engine has passed the same rigorous acceptance testing that we perform for every launch engine, including 200 seconds of engine burn and multiple restarts,” company representatives wrote in the press kit for “Catch Me If You Can,” which you can find here (opens in new tab). The tests showed that the engine produced full thrust and “performed to the same standard as a newly built Rutherford engine,” she added.
Still, Rocket Lab prefers to keep its boosters out of the water. On “Catch Me If You Can”, the company aims to keep the trapped booster under the helicopter safe for the entire flight to the Auckland Production Complex.
The helicopter catch will take place just under 19 minutes after launch, if all goes according to plan in “Catch Me If You Can”. The satellite, dubbed MATS (“Mesospheric Airglow/Aerosol Tomography and Spectroscopy”), will be deployed approximately 41 minutes later.
MATS “is the basis for the SNSA’s scientific mission to investigate atmospheric waves and better understand how the top layer of the Earth’s atmosphere interacts with wind and weather patterns closer to the ground,” Rocket Lab wrote in the mission’s press kit.
MATS was originally supposed to be launched atop a Russian rocket, but the SNSA and its prime contractor for the satellite, OHB Sweden AB, that agreement nixed (opens in new tab) after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and rebooked on an Electron.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on facebook (opens in new tab).
#Watch #Rocket #Lab #Launch #Satellite #Catch #Booster #Helicopter #November