Rocket Lab is a company that aims to follow SpaceX and Blue Origin to commercial payloads in space. SpaceX lost many of its first stage missiles in a recovery attempt before it successfully and routinely recovered its missiles today. A Rocket Lab missile recently fired a payload and attempted to recover a Stage 1 missile for the first time.
On her first attempt Restoration of the first phase of the electron, Rocket Lab was successful. Rocket Lab uses a different technology to recover its rockets compared to SpaceX. The first recovery steps include the use of control systems to re-direct the missile after its payload has been deployed.
After re-orientation, a small rotating parachute is deployed to slow the missile’s descent towards the ground. As the booster approaches the ground, a larger parachute spreads out to slow it down further as it approaches the ocean surface. The missile is then dispersed, and a recovery ship is used to recover it.
Rocket Lab called the mission that led to its first successful restore “Return to Sender,” and it put 30 small satellites into orbit with the entire process running smoothly. While the company was hoping to restore the first stage, the main goal was to test the performance of the steering system and the canopy.
The data obtained from the canopy system will be used to improve the recovery program in the future. Rocket Lab has plans to capture the first-stage missiles in the air with a helicopter at the end. As crazy as it sounds, the company demonstrated the technology with a dummy first-stage missile earlier this year. Interestingly, while Rocket Lab intentionally allows its missiles to land in the ocean, SpaceX is deliberately trying to avoid any water landings using robotic drones and landings.