Rocket Lab pushes back mid-air helicopter catch attempt of booster during launch

Attempt now set for no earlier than May 1

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket on the company's New Zealand launch pad and its helicopter scheduled to attempt a mid-air capture of Electron's first stage Friday, April 29th. (Rocket Lab, Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Private space company Rocket Lab will try to grab a falling rocket booster out of the air with a helicopter for the first time this weekend.

The California-based company is launching a mission called “There and Back Again” from its spaceport in New Zealand with the goal of deploying 34 satellites and catching the Electron’s first stage rocket using parachutes and a helicopter.

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The attempt was originally planned for Friday. However, the company decided better wind and cloud conditions would occur in the next few days.

The earliest attempt is now May 1, with a launch window opening at 6:35 p.m EST.

The feat would be a giant leap for Rocket Lab, which aims to lower launch costs by capturing and re-flying Electron’s first stage before flying it back to their base.

“We will attempt to show live footage of the helicopter capture during this mission, but we do expect some video loss due to the remote location of the helicopter during the capture attempt,” Rocket Lab officials wrote on the company’s website.

In order to make reusable rockets, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck announced in 2019 that they would use a helicopter capture method because Electron’s first stage cannot hold enough fuel to land vertically, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

The company has since successfully tested the helicopter recovery strategy using dummy rockets and fishing the 59-foot tall prop out of the ocean.

Last year, Beck revealed the company is building a bigger rocket, called Neutron, designed with human spaceflight in mind.

Rocket Lab has become known for its unique style with mission names including “That’s a Funny Looking Cactus” and “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen”.

The “There And Back Again” mission is a nod to the journey the Electron first stage will make (if all goes according to plan).


About the Author:

Katrina Scales joined News 6 as a TV producer in June 2021.