“They got a great catch. They just didn’t like the way the load was feeling,” Beck said of the helicopter crew in a conference call after the launch.
Using a helicopter to catch a falling rocket is such a complex task that Peter Beck likens it to a “supersonic ballet.”
Rocket Lab, the company that Beck founded, partially pulled off the feat Tuesday as it pushes to make its small Electron rockets reusable. But after briefly catching the spent rocket, a helicopter crew was quickly forced to let it go again for safety reasons, and it fell into the Pacific Ocean where it was collected by a waiting boat. AP reports.
The California-based company regularly launches 18-meter (59-foot) rockets from the remote Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand to deliver satellites into space.
On Tuesday, the Electron rocket was launched in the morning and sent 34 satellites into orbit before the main booster section began falling to Earth. Its descent was slowed to about 10 meters (33 feet) per second by a parachute.
That’s when the helicopter crew sprang into action, dangling a long line with a hook below the helicopter to snag the booster’s parachute lines. The crew caught the rocket but the load on the helicopter exceeded the parameters from tests and simulations, so they jettisoned it again.
© Copyright LaPresse