Rocket Lab catches a 1-ton booster falling back from space

After being caught by a helicopter, and then dropped into the sea, an Electron booster is brought back to New Zealand by boat on Tuesday.

Enlarge / After being caught by a helicopter, and then dropped into the sea, an Electron booster is brought back to New Zealand by boat on Tuesday. (credit: Rocket Lab)

On Monday evening Rocket Lab launched its 26th Electron mission, successfully deploying a record 34 small satellites into orbit. But attention for this mission was far more focused on what happened after the launch, not during it.

That’s because, for the first time, Rocket Lab attempted to catch the falling first stage of its Electron booster with a helicopter. And briefly, they succeeded with this mid-air recovery.

As the rocket descended beneath its main parachute at about 10 meters per second, a drogue chute trailed behind with a 50-meter line. A Sikorsky S-92 helicopter tracked this descending rocket, and it, too, had a 50-meter line with a hook on the end of it.

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