Rocket Lab presents Neutron, its new reusable rocket

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Rocket Lab unveiled a new class of rocket in development on Monday. The launcher, called Neutron, will be able to carry up to eight metric tons of payload into orbit. The vehicle will also offer a fully reusable first stage.

For the past five years, SpaceX has revolutionized the aerospace industry by minimizing the cost of launching into orbit through the reuse of its boosters. Naturally, other companies have since tried to develop similar approaches. Rocket Lab, founded in 2006 by Peter Beck, is one of them.

Rocket Lab is now specialized in sending small payloads into space thanks to its Electron rocket, which achieved its first success in January 2018. Since then, the company has continued to put satellites into orbit for customers. like NASA and the US Air Force. But Electron was just the start.

Rocket Lab goes public and presents Neutron

Rocket Lab has just gone public as part of a SPAC merger with the company Vector Acquisition. This agreement is expected to soon value the company at more than four billion dollars. Rocket Lab will be listed on Nasdaq under the symbol RKLB.

“This milestone accelerates Rocket Lab’s ability to unlock the full potential of space through our launch platforms, and catalyzes our ambition to create a new multi-billion dollar business sector in space applications.”Peter Beck said in a press release.

The company also took the opportunity to present this Monday a new class of rocket in development. The launcher, called Neutron, will be able to carry up to eight metric tonnes of payload in orbit. In other words, a lifting capacity much greater than that of its Electron launcher.

The goal: to meet the increased demand from operators planning to launch large constellations of satellites. The company will also be able to provide resupply services to the International Space Station (ISS). Ultimately, Rocket Lab even underlines its intention to offer human missions in space.

The first flight of the Neutron is expected in 2024. In the meantime, the company also plans to build a new production facility in the United States to build this new large-scale launcher.

Comparison of the Electron light launcher with the future Neutron medium launcher. Credit: Rocket Lab

A fully reusable booster

The vehicle will also offer a fully reusable first stage. Launched from the company’s facilities in Wallops, Virginia, the rocket will be designed to land on a landing pad at sea, as SpaceX is currently doing with its Falcon 9.

Remember that the Electron rocket is currently too small (eighteen meters) to operate motorized hits in this way. Rocket Lab is still working on its method, but there are plans to eventually “catch” these boosters directly in flight by helicopter (after being braked by a parachute) before they plunge into the ocean so as to minimize the potential damage inflicted by sea water on structures.

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