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Neutron Rocket Development: 2024 Updates

Rocket Lab Takes Significant Step Towards Reusable Electron Rocket

A Recovered Electron Booster Floating in the Ocean.

Rocket Lab, a leading small satellite launch provider, has announced a major milestone in its quest to make its Electron rocket the world’s first reusable small orbital launch vehicle. Here are the key points:

  • A previously flown Electron first stage from the January 2024 “Four of a Kind” mission has been returned to Rocket Lab’s production line for final acceptance testing and eventual reflight.
  • The stage has already passed rigorous tests, including tank pressurization, helium leak checks, and carbon fiber structural testing.
  • Rocket Lab has been successfully recovering Electron first stages from previous missions, returning them to Earth under parachutes and collecting them from the ocean.

The company has made iterative modifications across multiple recovery missions to perfect the recovery process, including:

  • Ensuring the rocket’s carbon composite structure survives the intense heat and forces of reentry
  • Refining the parachute system for reliable deployment and smooth deceleration
  • Improving telemetry and tracking for rapid stage location and collection
  • Successfully launching a previously flown Rutherford engine

If the stage passes final acceptance and qualification testing, Rocket Lab will consider opportunities for reflying it in the new year.

This milestone marks an exciting step forward in Rocket Lab’s efforts to increase launch cadence and reduce costs through the reuse of Electron’s first stage. The payload for the potential reflight will be announced following the completion of final testing.