Rocket Lab is working hard at recovering, recycling, and reusing its rockets, just like SpaceX.
It's trying out its own method, though, which involves helicopters, parachutes, mid-air retrieval, and a lot of coordination.
On Thursday, Rocket Lab made an attempt to recover its first-stage Electron rocket booster for the first time. Part of its "Return to Sender" mission, the recovery was a success as the booster softly landed into the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand, where one of Rocket Lab's headquarters lies, as CNET reports.
Successful lift-off of 'Return To Sender'! pic.twitter.com/oDmTEZrCt4— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) November 20, 2020
It was tricky for the regular watcher to know whether the first-stage booster made it safely back down to Earth via the company's live feed. However, Rocket Lab later confirmed via a post on Twitter that the parachutes deployed properly and the rocket booster made a safe water landing into the Pacific.
A recovery ship will pick up the rocket, which will then be kitted out for its next mission.
What's different about Rocket Lab's approach, compared with SpaceX's vessel retrieval or drone ship landings, is that it's working towards a mid-air helicopter retrieval operation, as the Verge reports.
At the moment, the company is testing the waters and making sure its parachute systems operate safely and properly. It's all part of its upcoming plans for helicopter retrievals.
That'll be quite a sight for sore eyes once it's up and running!
My new favourite image of 2020. pic.twitter.com/lEIXPyCIkI— Peter Beck (@Peter_J_Beck) November 20, 2020
Rocket Lab's CEO, Peter Beck, said in a statement, "What we're trying to achieve with Electron is an incredibly difficult and complex challenge, but one we're willing to pursue to further boost launch cadence and deliver even more frequent launch opportunities to small satellite operators."
The company is forging ahead with its plans, and take a look at a Rocket Lab mid-air capture demo from back in April as a taster: