Rocket Lab successfully burned through an engine that went into space

Rocket Lab has published a video showing the successful burning of the Rutherford engine. The peculiarity of this power unit is that it was in space, and then was returned to Earth as part of the There And Back Again mission.

Burning of the Rutherford engine that was in space. Source: Rocket Lab

How to catch a stage by helicopter

The There And Back Again mission took place on May 2, 2022. Its main task was to launch 34 small satellites from various commercial customers into orbit. Another important goal of the flight was the return of the first stage of the Electron rocket. For this, Rocket Lab chose a scheme using parachutes and engines. Its essence is that during the descent by parachute, the Electron stage is picked up by a helicopter, and then delivered to land.

Training in catching the first stage of the Electron rocket in the air. Source: Rocket Lab

In general, the mission There And Back Again was a success, although it was not without an unpleasant lining. After the helicopter picked up the stage, its helicopter crew found that the load characteristics differ from the data obtained during training with the layout. Therefore, it was decided to lower the stage into the water. Later, it was picked up by the Rocket Lab spacecraft and delivered to the company’s base in order to study the possibility of its reuse.

Successful burning of an engine that was in space

It’s no secret that contact with seawater does not have the best effect on the safety of complex rocket technology. Nevertheless, after examining the stage, Rocket Lab engineers came to the conclusion that it is in good technical condition and is quite suitable for re-flight into space. To demonstrate this, they burned one of the Rutherford engines installed on it (in total, the stage is equipped with nine similar power units). The test simulated its repeated flight into space.

The burning ended with success. Rutherford worked for 200 seconds, creating a full thrust of 21 kN within 1000 milliseconds after ignition.

The success of the test was another step on Rocket Lab’s path to reuse its rockets. The company has already announced that it will return another Electron stage from space by the end of 2022. A helicopter will also be used for this mission.

Recall that Rocket Lab recently shared the details of its Venusian mission. Its launch is scheduled for next year.

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