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Rocket Lab successfully catches first stage with helicopter

Electron first stage on parachute just before capture

Capitalism in space: In successfully placing 34 smallsat into orbit today using its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab also successfully caught the first stage with helicopter as it descending by parachute.

The screen capture to the right from the live feed shows that first stage on parachute just before the helicopter hook captures it. That helicopter is now returning to land with that stage, which it will then gently deposit for study and refurbishment. Though it is likely this first recovered first stage will not get reused, that possibility remains, and regardless this success points to the future reuse of all Electron first stages.

UPDATE: Because of “different load characteristics” than seen during previous tests, the helicopter pilot released the stage for safety reasons, while still over the ocean. The company was then able to recover it, but though they can now study it no reuse will be possible.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

17 SpaceX
13 China
6 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 25 to 13 in the national rankings, with the U.S. leading all other nations combined 25 to 22.

Conscious Choice cover

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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  • Willi

    Caught it and dropped it. They had to fish it out of the water.

  • William


  • GaryMike

    Evolutionary iteration(s).

    You learn more from your mistakes & failures.

    Or, you should.

    The goal is robustness, not momentary glory.

    Except for Boeing’s Starliner, we should accept failure in the same way that Nature accepts that not all Salmon make it up and over the waterfalls, on their way to the spawning grounds..

  • t-dub

    @GaryMike . . . yes, but do you want to be one of the salmon that doesn’t make it up the waterfalls to spawn?

  • That pilot will never buy another drink in their life: ‘Let me tell you ’bout the time I caught a rocket out of thee air with a helicopter’. A fantastic display of airmanship, as rotary-wing is less forgiving than fixed-wing if something goes sideways.

    And if everything worked right the first time, we’d be living in a Progressive fantasy: and thankfully, the Universe will not allow that.

    Big style points. Landing a rocket on land or barge is so 2021. I do wonder about taking that kind of risk when there is proven recovery tech that is safer.

  • Jeff Wright

    There was talk of transporting Saturn V first stages by chopper…maybe capture. To this day, Russia still has the greatest lift record with that mammoth. We never beat that Sputnik moment. For shame!

  • Peter Monta

    Peter Beck has tweeted, though, that the engines “are going back to space, I reckon”. So perhaps the engines will be viable for reuse. No mention of the airframe.

  • wayne

    Nice coverage–and I highly enjoy the Rocket Lab announcer-girl, in contrast to the highly annoying lady at SpaceX. (IMHO)
    Excellent job catching the 1st stage, (I’m no Engineer, but it feels like that’s 95% of the Adventure unto itself.)
    I haven’t watched this repetitively (yet)–from what vantage point is the camera for the parachute deploy?

    “MLB: Almost Amazing Plays….”

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