Rocket Lab may have experienced mission failure and total payload loss during the company’s 20th scheduled mission on May 15, but it wasn’t bad news, the company said in an update. Monday.
Importantly, the first stage of the Electron rocket – which contains nine Rutherford engines – performed as expected and did not contribute to the flight failure. Rocket Lab further said that the first step resulted in a successful watering in the ocean using a parachute and the company was able to recover it and return it to their production complex.
Rocket Lab was also testing a redesigned heat shield on this mission that was made of stainless steel, rather than aluminum, and it seemed to work well as well. Testing these elements of the reusability system was a secondary goal here, as the primary goal is still to deliver the payloads of paying customers, but in the end, reusability could be absolutely crucial to the long-term business of the company. business.
“The new heat shield launched on this flight protected the scene from the intense heat and forces experienced upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and the program took another major step forward towards the reusability of the rocket,” said the company Monday.
This is great news for Rocket Lab’s reusability program, as the first stage and motors can be examined and evaluated for further reflight testing in future missions. The company still intends to conduct its third recovery mission later this year. Rocket Lab said it is leading the flight review of the May 15 mission failure with support from the Federal Aviation Administration and expects the full review to be completed in the coming weeks.