penetrating two metres into the surface of the red planet in search of signs of life.
"You bastard, that *hurt*. Earth-shattering kaboom time, I think."
This week Rocket Labs launched six satellites into the nether, the British team on ESA's ExoMars mission had a think about where to land their rover on the red planet in 2021, and Japan helped successfully scrap a load of space crap. Rocket Labs declares that it is indeed Business Time as Electron flings sats into orbit The …
I'm still boggling at the use of electric turbopumps on the Rocket Lab's Electron, but if you only need 1 megawatt (those 9 engines are tiny) for about 2 minutes then that's about 33kWh and not too bad.
The engineering and development advantages are interesting. You entirely eliminate all the turbomachinery of the fuel pumps, so that makes development easier. You're not diverting propellant to run turbines, so the engine can gain efficiency without the plumbing complications of a staged combustion engine.
The drawback is a heavy battery pack, but it'll be lighter than an electric car's because you don't care about reusability and good recharging characteristics.
I wonder how electric pumps would scale to larger rockets that use turbopumps in the tens of megawatts.
> I wonder how electric pumps would scale to larger rockets that use turbopumps in the tens of megawatts.
Short answer is, they just don't.. Specific energy of the power source, and weight of the machinery, are going to be hugely limiting factors. The energy density of say RP-1/LOX is just so much better and turbopumps just produce a massive amount of power given their relative weight, something no electric motor can come close to as it scales up, using any current or projected technology.
Rutherford made a great choice using electric for the Electron, it hugely simplifies the engine design (and probably hugely increases reliability to boot) but electrically driven engines will never be more efficient than a more traditional turbopump driven engine.
The gains here are in simplicity, not efficiency, basically.