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Neutron Rocket Development: 2024 Updates

Rocket Lab Drops Several Archimedes Engine Updates

Rocket Lab has completed the first full assembly of its Archimedes engine, a 3D printed, reusable rocket engine designed for the company’s Neutron medium lift launch vehicle. Here are some key facts about the Archimedes engine:

  • Powered by liquid oxygen and methane, using an oxidizer rich staged combustion cycle
  • Capable of producing 165,000 lbf (733 kilonewtons) per engine, with a combined total of 1,450,000 lbf on Neutron’s first stage (nine engines)
  • Designed for maximum reusability, with a minimum target of up to 20 launches per engine
  • 3D printed critical parts include turbo pump housings, pre-burner and main chamber components, valve housings, and engine structural components
  • Intensive test campaign has begun at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
  • Production of subsequent engines is ongoing in parallel with the test campaign
  • Full-rate production will take place at Rocket Lab’s Engine Development Complex in Long Beach, California

The Archimedes engine test and development campaign is a key driver for Neutron’s first launch, which is now expected to occur no earlier than mid-2025. Rocket Lab has also completed carbon composite flight structures for Neutron’s fairing panels, Stage 1 and Stage 2 tanks, and the reusable Stage 1 structure. Infrastructure development also continues at Neutron’s dedicated launch site at Wallops Island, Virginia.