At the end of November last year, Rocket Lab tested the parachute on its Electron rocket for the first time, and successfully landed it back into the sea after the launch mission was completed. However, this is only the first phase of the three-phase test of rocket recovery. Next month Rocket Lab will conduct the second phase, which is the heat shield test.
The launch mission this time was named “Running out of Toes”, and it was Electron’s 20th launch mission. After the two satellites are put into orbit, the first section of Electron’s rocket will turn the engine in the forward direction, and is protected from the high temperature of 2,400 degrees Celsius with the protection of the heat shield. After entering the lower atmosphere, it will first release a deceleration parachute, and then release the main parachute when it gets closer to the ground. If all goes well, it is expected to land about 650 kilometers off New Zealand and the rocket will be recovered by Rocket Lab.
Rocket Lab’s final plan is to use a helicopter to “hook” the rocket hanging under a parachute in the air, and then transport it back to the base for refurbishment. This part of the technical demonstration was actually demonstrated in April last year, but the real application to the rocket returning from space is the third stage of testing.