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American company uses helicopters to catch missiles in mid-air

After launching the satellite into orbit, the first stage of the Electron rocket fell into the Pacific Ocean, decelerated by a parachute and was picked up by a helicopter.

American company uses helicopters to catch missiles in mid-air

Aerospace company Rocket Lab successfully launched 34 satellites into orbit with the Electron two-stage rocket from the launch site in New Zealand at 5:49 am today (Hanoi time). What is special is how the first stage of Electron returns to Earth.

About 15 minutes after takeoff, the rocket stage gradually lowered its altitude above the Pacific Ocean with the help of parachutes. The Sikorsky S-92 helicopter flew close to it and grabbed the parachute with a hook. The pilot then dropped the missile into the sea after noticing a small anomaly. However, according to Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, no big deal happened. The missile stage landed safely in the sea, was recovered by ships and brought back to the mainland for examination and analysis.

This spectacular rocket grab is part of Rocket Lab’s effort to reuse the first stage of the Electron rocket, thereby reducing costs and increasing launch frequency. By now, everyone is familiar with SpaceX’s reusable rockets. The company has landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket multiple times and reused it for another launch. The Falcon 9’s first stage will ignite its engines, fly itself to the landing pad, and then land vertically.

However, the 18-meter-tall Electron rocket is too small to do this. The first rocket stages could not carry enough fuel for landing. So, Rocket Lab decided to implement the tactic of grabbing by helicopter. Prior to today’s mission, the company recovered the Electron rocket stage after they landed in the sea during multiple tests.

The new mission “There And Back Again” was postponed several times as Rocket Lab waited for favorable weather in the rocket catchment area, about 275 km off the coast of New Zealand. “There And Back Again”‘s 34 satellites – more than any previous Electron mission – belong to a variety of customers, including Alba Orbital, Astrix Astronautics, Aurora Propulsion Technologies, E-Space, Spaceflight and Unseenlabs .

All satellites were deployed as planned into a Sun-synchronous orbit about 520 km from Earth about an hour after the rocket left the launch pad. This success brings the total number of satellites launched by Electron to date to 146.

Going forward, the Electron won’t be Rocket Lab’s only launch vehicle. The company is developing a larger rocket called the Neutron, which is expected to make its first flight in 2024. Neutrons are designed for partial reuse. Rocket Lab says its first stage will land with the same thrust as Falcon 9.

Thu Thao (According to Space)

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