Friday, June 9, 2023

New Zealand rocket caught but then dropped by helicopter

WELLINGTON, New Zealand ( Associated Press) — Using a helicopter to capture a falling rocket is such a complicated task that Peter Beck likens it to a “supersonic ballet.”

Rocket Lab, the company that Beck founded, pulled off the feat Tuesday partly as it pushes to make its tiny Electron rocket reusable. But after briefly capturing the spent rocket, a helicopter crew was forced to revisit it for safety reasons, and it fell into the Pacific Ocean where it was collected by a waiting boat.

The California-based company routinely launches 18-metre (59-foot) rockets from the remote Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand to deliver satellites into space.

On Tuesday, the Electron rocket launched in the morning and sent 34 satellites into orbit before the main booster section fell to Earth. Its descent was slowed by a parachute to about 10 meters (33 ft) per second.

That’s when the helicopter crew swung into action, hanging a long line with a hook under the helicopter to block the booster’s parachute lines. The crew caught hold of the rocket but the load on the helicopter exceeded test and simulation parameters, so they took it off again.

The roller coaster of emotions was caught in a livestream of the event, with people in mission control cheering and clapping rockets, only to erupt into a collective gasp and sigh about 20 seconds later.

Nevertheless, Beck lauded the success of the mission, saying that almost everything went according to plan and the unexpected load issue was a minor detail that would soon be corrected, adding that “nothing in the scheme of things.”

He said, ‘He got a great catch. They didn’t like the way the load felt,” Beck said of the helicopter crew in a conference call after the launch.

He added that a detailed analysis could reveal the reasons for the discrepancy in load characteristics. He said he still hoped the company could salvage some or all of the spent rocket boosters, despite being submerged in the salt water they had hoped to survive.

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Rocket Lab named its latest mission “There and Back Again” – a reference to the film trilogy “The Hobbit” which was filmed in New Zealand.

The company described the brief capture in the air at an altitude of 1,980 meters (6,500 ft) by a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter as a milestone. It added that making its rockets reusable will help the company increase the number of launches it performs and reduce costs.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX company designed the first reusable orbital rocketFalcon 9.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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