Today Rocket Lab unveiled a new plan to build an 8-ton reusable rocket called Neutron. The neutron rocket will be slightly larger than Rocket Lab’s current fame, the Electron Rocket, meaning it will be used for various purposes. Rocket Lab still envisages using a neutron to transport satellites into space, but it also plans to use the rocket for interplanetary missions, missions to the International Space Station and human spaceflight.
Even the types of satellite deployment missions you would perform with the neutron will be different from the ones we’ve seen you do with the electron. Since the neutron is an 8-tonnage class rocket, Rocket Lab says it can be used to “propagate massive constellations”.
In a video posted on Twitter today, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck realized the fact that at some point he promised to eat his hat if Rocket Lab someday start making reusable rockets or rockets larger than the Electron. Since Neutron ticks these two boxes, you can actually see him eat a portion of a Rocket Lab hat (after he passes through the blender, of course).
The video is worth watching for that moment alone, but in it, Beck also tells us when the anticipated first mission of the neutron will take place: sometime in 2024. In a separate press release today, Rocket Lab says the Neutron will launch from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Port at the flight facility Affiliated with NASA and OBS. With this board, Rocket Lab saves the cost of building an entirely new platform, and starts tasks sooner rather than later.
The press release also included a number of statistics about the neutron missile. The medium-lift neutron missile will be a two-stage launch vehicle of 40 meters (131 feet) with a diameter of 4.5 meters (14.7 feet) and a lift capacity of 8,000 kg (8 metric tons) to low Earth orbit, 2,000 kg to the Moon (2 Metric tons), and 1,500 kg to Mars and Venus (1.5 metric tons). ” We also learn that the first stage of a reusable rocket will return to Earth by landing on the ocean platform, rather than being sprayed into the ocean like an electron missile.
Rocket Lab will now begin searching for a site in America to build the plant that will produce the neutron. With the announcement of the neutron announced, Rocket Lab appears to want to go toe-to-toe with SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket, so we’ll be working to put things together at Rocket Lab in the coming years.