Rocket Lab has postponed the launch of an Electron booster it hopes to snatch from the sky with a helicopter after liftoff until Monday (May 2) due to weather.
Unfavorable weather conditions are the main reason for the launch delay, Rocket Lab officials said in an update, but the company is taking the time to perform final checks on its recovery system for the Electron rocket reusability test.
“After a busy week of capture testing, and while we wait for the weather to improve, we will be taking an additional day for final optimization of the helicopter and recovery system before our first airborne capture attempt,” the representatives wrote. of Rocket Lab in the twitter update. Liftoff is now scheduled for Monday during a nearly 2-hour window that opens at 6:35 pm EDT (2235 GMT).
Rocket Lab’s upcoming launch, called “There And Back Again,” will mark the company’s first attempt to recover the first stage of an Electron booster in flight as part of a plan to reuse rockets and reduce launch costs.
The plan calls for the first stage of the Electron booster to launch normally, then fall back to Earth while optimizing its descent with “a series of complex maneuvers designed to allow it to survive the extreme heat and forces of atmospheric re-entry,” the company said. it’s a statement. mission description. A heat shield will protect the rocket’s nine Rutherford engines, while a parachute will slow its fall so it can be captured by a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter.
Rocket Lab has retrieved Electron boosters from the ocean before and practiced mid-air catches of dummy rockets, but has yet to attempt to catch an Electron returning from space after an actual launch.
“Unlike previous recovery missions, ‘There And Back Again’ attempts to avoid an ocean splashdown, as the helicopter will return to the stage to land after capture,” Rocket Lab wrote in the description. “Following the success of this recovery, Electron will be one step closer to being the first reusable small orbital satellite launcher.”
Despite its ambitious nature, the electron recovery test is not the primary goal of the There And Back Again mission.
Rocket Lab will launch 34 satellites into orbit on the flight for a variety of customers, including three demonstration satellites for startup E-Space, two batches of picosatellites for an “Internet of Things constellation” on a flight organized by Spaceflight, Inc. ., and AuroraSat-1, a demonstration satellite for testing space debris removal technologies built by the Finland-based company Aurora Propulsion Technologies.