Rocket Lab prepares for upcoming launch, advances towards reusability of Electron rocket.

Rocket Lab is preparing for its next launch, scheduled for no earlier than April 24th from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The upcoming mission, dubbed Beginning of the Swarm, will involve deploying two payloads into different orbits.

The first payload, NEONSAT-1, is undergoing checkouts at Launch Complex 1 as part of KAIST’s mission on the Electron rocket, with the launch anticipated around April 24th. NEONSAT-1 is the initial satellite within an 11-satellite constellation for the country and will be placed into a 520km circular Earth orbit.

The second payload is NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3), a cubesat designed to test new materials for deployable booms that will support a solar sail. Once fully unfurled, the sail will measure approximately 30 feet per side.

Rocket Lab’s first-stage tank has been subjected to extensive testing, including holding excess pressure for over 20 times the normal flight duration, leak checks, and structural testing, allowing it to return to the production line. This particular first stage was used in the Four of a Kind Mission on January 31st.

However, Rocket Lab has not revealed whether any of the Rutherford engines from that mission will be reused, or if they will all be new. Moreover, the company has not disclosed which payload will be launched using the flight-proven first stage.

Rocket Lab is making significant progress toward achieving full first-stage reusability on the Electron rocket while collecting valuable data for the recovery of Neutron, their future medium-lift rocket. The question remains whether Rocket Lab will frequently utilize reused Electron stages by the end of this year, or if they could encounter issues as they strive towards that goal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *