Rocket Lab catches piece of falling rocket in recovery demonstration

Rocket Lab has announced that, as part of a recovery demonstration, it caught a piece of its first stage Electron rocket in midair, while it was parachuting to Earth, the company said.

As part of the demonstration, Rocket Lab dropped the test stage from a light helicopter over the ocean. The stage´s fall was slowed by a parachute. A second helicopter snagged the parachute´s drogue line with a specially designed grappling hook at about 5,000 ft. The second helicopter then carried the test stage back to land.

Rocket Lab says it added recovery equipment to its two most recently used rockets, launched in December 2019 and January 2020. With those launches it has been practicing the process of steering the rocket´s reentry and recovery.

Rocket Lab manufactures small rockets for launching small satellites. The firm wants to reuse rocket stages that it recovers to save time and money by not having to rebuild the hardware.

For its next test, Rocket Lab will try to recover and then refurbish a full Electron first stage.