First Aerial Capture Attempt for an Electron Booster Rocket [NEW Live: 02.05.2022, 22:35 UTC]

in STEMGeekslast year (edited)

EDIT 1: New Date 01.05.2022: Rocket Lab moved the launch date because of weather. They want to make sure that their first catching attempt can happen during the best possible weather conditions.

EDIT 2: New Date 02.05.2022: Further delay for optimal weather

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab will deploy 34 satellites from multiple customers into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The more exciting part is the first attempt at capturing the booster stage out of the air via a helicopter, and then lowering it on a ship.

Tim Dodd explaining the concept of air recovery: How Rocket Lab will catch a rocket with a helicopter!

Rocket Lab has previously gathered experience by dropping dummy loads from a helicopter to have it captured by another helicopter.

Rocket Lab catches rocket booster in mid-air during test

They also gathered a lot of data during preveous reentry attempts and evaluation of the splashed down boosters.

Why Mid-Air Recovery Is a HUGE Catalyst for Rocket Lab

This is the first time the whole prcedure will be attempted in one go.

A big advantage of Rocket Lab is that their rocket is comparatively small and light. That means it won't heat up as much during reentry, and therefore doesn't need extra burns to slow down the vehicle. Because the rocket is so light, it can be captured in air by a helicopter.

Scott Manley: RocketLab & Reusable Rockets - Plasma Knives, Ballutes, Helicopters and... Elephants

Since the Electron is so light and doesn't need to aim for a small landing pad, it can do away with additional hardware that SpaceX needs. There is no need to steer the rocket, as the helicopter can adjust its position. That gets rid of grid fins. Because the Helicopter lowers the rocket into a cradle on a boat, the rocket doesn't need landing legs either.

The launch takes place at Mahia Peninsula, Launch Complex 1A, in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab's mission website: THERE AND BACK AGAIN.

Why it's interesting:

  • 26th launch of the Electron rocket by Rocket Lab
  • The engines are 3D printed
  • Fuel pumps are battery powered
  • The stages are built out of carbon composite material
  • Potentially reusable first stage

Where to watch:

Check your local time of launch at:

Starlink 4-16

There is also another Starlink launch about an hour earlier.

SpaceX is launching 53 additional Satellites for their own Starlink Constellation.

This is the 13th batch of satellites for the 4th layer of the constellation. Shell 4 is in a 540km circular low-Earth orbit. These satellites are equiped with laser links installed.

The booster is a Block 5 and will land on a drone ship. This is the first time a booster will be reflown for the 6th time.

The mission to low earth orbit will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.


  • Payload mass is approximately 16 tonnes
  • 53 Starlink Satellites

Check your local time of launch at:

Where to watch:

Background information about previous SpaceX launches: Wikipedia

Useful links to stay up to date on launches: Launch Schedule

Everyday Astronaut: Prelaunch Previews

Space News:

NASA Spaceflight

Vote for my witness: @blue-witness

Posted with STEMGeeks


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