LONG BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 5, 2022–
Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab”), a leading launch and space systems company, today announced that during its upcoming Electron launch, a commercial rideshare mission currently scheduled for April 2022, the company will attempt a helicopter midair capture of the Electron launch vehicle for the first time.
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Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter arrives in preparation for the first attempt to capture Electron in flight (Photo: Business Wire)
The “Out and Back” mission, Rocket Lab’s 26th Electron launch, will blast off from Pad A at Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula in a 14-day launch window scheduled for April 19, 2022 UTC. Electron will deploy 34 payloads from commercial operators Alba Orbital, Astrix Astronautics, Aurora Propulsion Technologies, E-Space, Unseenlabs and Swarm Technologies through global launch services provider Spaceflight Inc. The launch is expected to bring the total number of satellites launched by Electron to 146.
For the first time, Rocket Lab will also attempt an in-flight capture of Electron’s first stage when it returns from space after launch, the next major step in the company’s development program to make Electron a rocket. reusable. Rocket Lab will attempt the fishing with a custom Sikorsky S-92, a large twin-engine helicopter typically used in offshore oil and gas transport and search and rescue operations.
Catching a rocket stage returning to the air as it returns from space is a very complex operation that requires extreme precision. Several critical milestones must line up perfectly to ensure a successful capture.
Recovery Mission Profile:
- About an hour before liftoff, Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 will move into position in the capture zone, about 150 nautical miles off the coast of New Zealand, awaiting launch.
- At T+2: 30 minutes after liftoff, Electron’s first and second stages will separate according to a standard mission profile. Electron’s second stage will continue in orbit for payload deployment and Electron’s first stage will begin its descent to Earth reaching speeds of nearly 8,300 km (5,150 miles) per hour. The stage will reach temperatures of around 2,400 degrees C (4,352 F) on its descent.
- After deploying a stabilizer parachute at 13 km (8.3 miles) altitude, the main parachute will be extracted at approximately 6 km (3.7 miles) altitude to dramatically slow the stage to 10 meters per second, i.e. 36 km (22.3 miles) per hour.
- As the stage enters the capture area, Rocket Lab’s helicopter will attempt to join the return stage and capture the parachute line via a hook.
- Once the scene has been captured and secured, the helicopter will fly it back to shore where Rocket Lab will conduct a thorough analysis of the scene and assess its fitness for flight.
“We are excited to enter this next phase of Electron’s recovery program,” said Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We performed numerous successful helicopter captures with replica stages, performed extensive parachute testing, and successfully recovered Electron’s first stage from the ocean during our 16th, 20th, and 22nd missions. Now is the time to put everything together for the first time and snatch Electron from the sky. Trying to catch a rocket as it falls back to Earth is no small feat, we’re absolutely threading the needle here, but pushing the boundaries with such complex operations is in our DNA. We expect to learn a great deal from the mission as we work towards the ultimate goal of making Electron the first small reusable orbital satellite launch vehicle and providing our customers with even greater launch availability.
Rocket Lab has already conducted three successful ocean recovery missions where Electron returned to Earth by parachute and was recovered from the ocean. Analysis of these missions informed Electron’s design modifications, allowing it to withstand the harsh re-entry environment, and also helped develop procedures for eventual helicopter capture.
Payloads aboard the “Out and Back” mission include:
Alba Orbital: A group of four pico-satellites will be deployed, including Alba Orbital’s own Unicorn-2 PocketQube satellites, as well as TRSI-2, TRSI-3 and MyRadar-1 satellites for Alba Orbital customers. Each small satellite carries a unique sensor designed to demonstrate innovative technologies in orbit. Unicorn-2 will carry an optical nighttime imaging payload designed to monitor light pollution across the globe.
Astrix Astronautics: Astrix Astronautics is deploying the “Copia” system, a high-performance power generation system for CubeSats that aims to improve the power constraints typically seen in small satellites. The mission aims to demonstrate the high performance of Copia’s new design through in-orbit testing with 1U solar panels capable of capturing up to 200W.
Aurora propulsion technologies: AuroraSat-1, also known as the Flying Object, will deploy to low Earth orbit in a demonstration of the company’s proprietary propulsion devices and plasma brakes that provide propulsion and effective deorbiting for small satellites. The CubeSat will validate the water-based thruster and mobility control of its Resistojets which can assist CubeSats with tilting capabilities and propulsion-based attitude control. AuroraSat-1 will also test its deployable plasma brakes which combine a micro tether with charged particles in space, or ionospheric plasma, to generate significant amounts of drag to safely deorbit the spacecraft at the end of its life. .
E-Space: E-Space’s payload will consist of three demonstration satellites to validate the systems and technology of its sustainable satellite system. The satellites have small cross-sections, to reduce the risk of collision of millions of untrackable space objects and will automatically de-orbit if one of the systems malfunctions. Eventually, the satellites will sacrificially capture and deorbit small pieces of debris to burn on re-entry, setting a new standard in space environmental management.
Spaceflight Inc: Spaceflight Inc. has arranged for Rocket Lab to launch two SpaceBEE stacks for Internet of Things constellation operator Swarm Technologies.
INVISIBLE LABORATORIES: BRO-6 is the sixth satellite in the Unseenlabs constellation, dedicated to detecting radiofrequency signals. Thanks to its technology, the French company detects any ship at sea, even those whose cooperative beacon is off. The launch of the BRO-6 satellite will allow Unseenlabs to improve its revisit time and offer more customers.
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+ FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This press release may contain certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. , as amended. . These forward-looking statements are based on Rocket Lab’s current expectations and beliefs regarding future developments and their potential effects. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties (many of which are beyond Rocket Lab’s control) or other assumptions that may cause actual results or performance to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such statements. prospective. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements contained in this press release, including risks related to the global COVID-19 pandemic; risks relating to government restrictions and lockdowns in New Zealand and other countries in which we operate that could delay or suspend our operations; delays and disruptions in expansion efforts; our reliance on a limited number of customers; the harsh and unpredictable space environment in which our products operate, which could adversely affect our launch vehicle and spacecraft; increased congestion due to the proliferation of constellations in low Earth orbit which could significantly increase the risk of potential collision with space debris or other spacecraft and limit or impede our launch flexibility and/or access to our own orbital slots ; increased competition in our industry due in part to rapid technological development and falling costs; technological changes in our industry that we may not be able to keep up with or that could make our services uncompetitive; evolution of average selling prices; the failure of our launch vehicles, spacecraft and components to perform as intended, either due to our design error in production or through our fault; disruptions to the launch schedule; supply chain disruptions, product delays or failures; design and engineering flaws; launch failures; Natural
disasters and epidemics or pandemics; changes in government regulations, including with respect to trade and export restrictions, or in the status of our regulatory approvals or applications; or other events that require us to cancel or reschedule launches, including customers’ contractual rescheduling and termination rights; the risks that acquisitions will not be completed on time or at all or that they will not achieve the expected benefits and results; and other risks detailed from time to time in Rocket Lab’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including under the heading “Risk Factors” in Rocket Lab’s Annual Report on Form 10 -K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, which was filed with the SEC on March 24, 2022, and elsewhere (including that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may also exacerbate the risks therein discussed). There can be no assurance that future developments affecting Rocket Lab will be those anticipated by us. Except as required by law, Rocket Lab undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
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CONTACT: + Rocket Lab Media Contact
KEYWORD: CALIFORNIA AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA NEW ZEALAND UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA
INDUSTRY KEYWORD: TECHNOLOGY SATELLITE AVIATION MANUFACTURING OTHER SCIENCE SCIENCE
SOURCE: Rocket Lab USA, Inc.
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PUBLISHED: 05/04/2022 08:00/DISC: 05/04/2022 08:02