Rocket laboratory has just delivered a satellite into orbit and taken a big step toward accelerated reuse.
Rocket Lab is two-stage Electronic amplifier took off from the company’s launch site in New Zealand today (November 19) at 9:20 p.m. EST (0220 GMT on November 20), carrying 30 spacecraft to the low Earth orbit of a mission called Return to the Sender.
Regarding this name: After part of the flight was over, the first stage of Electron returned to management, parachute splashing in the Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) off the coast of New Zealand.
Then, about two hours after takeoff, Rocket Lab staff pulled the booster out of the drink with a recovery ship. The company will pull him ashore for analysis, which will inform him of his desire to make the first stage of Electron multiple.
Connected: Rocket Lab and its booster Electron (photos)
The view of the main gutter from the first stage of Electron, when he returned to Earth. https://t.co/3YcSvrYIGi November 20, 2020
“Once we get it back to the factory, it̵
Achieving the reuse target is likely to make Electron’s missions significantly cheaper for Rocket Lab and its customers, Beck said. But the main intended benefit is an increase in rocket production speed and launch frequencies.
“Even if it is economically neutral, the fact that we don’t have to produce more vehicles in the same factory is a really big advantage,” Beck said during the November 4 conversation.
Rocket Lab eventually plans to capture falling electrons from the sky with the help of helicopters, a technique he demonstrated last March during drop test with a piston booster. The 18-foot-tall Electron is too small to make powerful touchdowns a la the first stages of SpaceX Falcon 9 missiles; An electron cannot carry enough fuel to keep the amount needed for landing, Beck said.
Rocket Lab directs Electron’s first stages back to Earth in a controlled manner during operational launches before. But “Return to Sender” – Electron’s 16th flight – marks the first time the company has done it with a parachute, and the first time a booster has been restored after a flight.
As exciting as skating and recovery were, the main goal of Return to the Sender was to lift the 30 payloads. And that’s what happened: The satellites were in a circular orbit about 310 miles (500 km) above Earth an hour after takeoff, Beck said via Twitter on Thursday night.
Twenty-four of the satellites launched today are small SpaceBees, which will be operated by California-based Swarm Technologies. Swarm is assembling a constellation of 150 space bees that will provide communication services to Internet of Things devices around the world.
There were also two satellites aboard the Return to Sender for the Virginia-based Drag Racer mission TriSept Corp. Drag Racer will test the ability of long-distance satellites to effectively debit satellites, potentially demonstrating technology that can ease Earth’s growth space junk problem.
Unseenlabs also had two small spacecraft on Return to Sender, the second and third members of the French company’s planned 20-satellite maritime surveillance system. The Unseenlabs network will allow for “improved monitoring of activities at sea, such as illegal fishing and anti-environmental behavior, “Rocket Lab writes Return to Sender Mission Description.
Another satellite, called Waka Āmiorangi Aotearoa APSS-1, was built by students in the Auckland Space Systems Program at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. The spacecraft will investigate a possible connection between earthquakes and disturbances in the upper layers of the Earth, write representatives of the Rocket Lab.
Finally, Back to the Sender also brought out a 3D printed image of Gnome Chompski, a garden gnome from the Half-Life video game series. The 6-inch-tall (15-centimeter) titanium gnome will not stay long, but will remain attached to the mission during Electron impact stagewhich delivers satellites to precise orbits and then performs a suicidal dive into the Earth’s atmosphere to avoid turning it into a piece space junk.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.