back to article US's secret spy payload offloaded: Rocket Lab demos missile muscle with second Electron guided home

Small-sat flinger Rocket Lab beat the winds to get the mysterious National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload off the New Zealand launchpad this morning. After multiple holds due to ground winds, the Electron lifted off at 02:56 UTC on 31 January from the company's Launch Complex 1 on the New Zealand Mahia Peninsula. Dubbed …

  1. overunder Silver badge

    "Rocket Labs' plans will see the returning booster eventually equipped with a parachute and snatched by helicopter."

    Seems unusually dangerous for a planned recovery.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Back when the world was black and white...

      Cameras stored images on film and could not send them over the internet. Spy satellites fell out of the sky and ejected the film which was slowed down by a parachute and caught by a helicopter. The Everyday Astronaut covered this in a video.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Fortunately NZ is equipped with some very good chopper pilots, experienced at hovering in tricky alpine environments to effect rescue, pluck injured crew off fishing boats in the roaring 40s and other less routine and more tricky things. Not sure if ex All Black Captain Fantastic Richie McCaw is in that class yet but his post rugby job is a chopper pilot.

      NZ is in process of clearing possums, rats, mice, mustelids and rats from our native bush and everywhere else which includes dropping poison pellets over inaccessible bush or dropping trapping teams into otherwise inaccessible rugged bush clad terrain. The scientists worked out it could be done, we have long practice at offshore islands and now onshore land arks with predator proof fences. We have new automatic baited traps, predator puts their head in to get bait and is decapitated. Trap then resets itself multiple times before the battery needs changing. We are not pissing about over this.

      Meanwhile the mainland of the UK continues to tolerate mink, grey squirrels, sundry exotic deer species etc. etc while stupidly culling vaccinated badgers, the largest land predator left. Here in Scotland we have at least rescued otters from endangerment and reintroduced beavers. Here in Dundee we are trying, we are the front line between grey and red squirrels. Greys in city gardens and parks and reds in a forest on the NW edge. Folk will come and trap and dispose of greys. It's something. But needs much, much more and govt funding.

      Anything the Yanks can do we can do better. In regular naval competitions the NZ air force wins the sub detection section with the Yanks, Cannucks and scorched Aussies. Our naval patch is HUGE, look it up sometime. Expanded by the Kermadecs to the NE half way to Tonga, the Chathams way out East of Christchurch and all those sub Antarctic islands. Not to mention our still extant but shelved claim to a segment of Antarctica.

      Also the three main islands have an area slightly bigger than the entire British Isles with snow capped alps (two sets of), lakes and lots of volcanoes.

      1. Kernel

        " Reply Icon

        Fortunately NZ is equipped with some very good chopper pilots, experienced at hovering in tricky alpine environments to effect rescue, pluck injured crew off fishing boats in the roaring 40s and other less routine and more tricky things."

        For the benefit of those who aren't aware of the history of aviation in NZ, the term 'more tricky things' included chasing deer over the hilltop scrub at low level, firing a net in their general direction from a modified shotgun, following which the net operator jumped off the still moving chopper onto the deer, wrestled it to the ground and prepared it to be airlifted out to a farm. Most of this activity took place in terrain where the chopper couldn't land, so the only way out for both deer and net operator was at the end of a rope.

        I have, somewhere at home, a video of a mate, now sadly deceased (of natural causes), piloting helicopters in the deer capture industry.

      2. MaxNZ

        Deer recovery by chopper

        An example of what the guys were doing back in the day with deer recovery. This looks like a bit of a sanitised version

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: Deer recovery by chopper

          Was it expensive?

          .... well it was a little deer.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What could possibly go wrong?

      After all, there's no evidence it's dangerous... until someone gets killed :/

      But it's all about saving money...

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    One small detail

    > Rocket Labs' plans will see the returning booster eventually equipped with a parachute and snatched by helicopter.

    But what happens to the elephants.

    1. Christoph

      Re: One small detail

      The elephants land on the Turtle.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: One small detail

        And everyone knows 'it's turtles ALL the way down'.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: One small detail

      -> What happens to the elephants?

      They land trunk-first. One pre-impact "toot-taroot" and they decelerate nicely.

  3. Ima Ballsy

    I Saw ......

    ...Rocket Labs but my mind said "Rocket Man" and then damn song started playing in my head ....

    1. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: I Saw ......

      And Elton John will be playing not too far away from Rocket Lab's launch site this weekend. Much to the disgust of my mate who is attending with his wife rather than coming out for a possum cull with the rest of the lads.

  4. Zebo-the-Fat

    Just after?

    "main engine cut-off occurring just after two minutes, 30 seconds" ...... so would that be two minutes 31 seconds?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Er ...

    ... Beck described the aerodynamic forces involved as akin to "perching three elephants atop the Electron stack" ...

    Would those be African or Indian elephants? Either way I would like to see this claim tested:

    "OK, are we all ready? ... Right - Dumbo you're first".

    "Good boy, steady now ... You're next Nellie"

    [Creak] "Er ... slowly does it, girl ... OK - and finally Jumbo"

    [Creak] "Gently now"

    [CREAK] "Looks like it's working"

    [CRACK] "Oops" [Trumpeting] ... [THUD] [THUD] [THUD]

    "[sigh] You'd better call the vet again, Ethel."

    " ... and tell Beck we need more struts."

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Er ...

      Well, that's a new take on how to make an elephant explode.

      Is it more or less messy?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Er ...

        Not sure, but I believe it was heard to utter "oh no, not again" just before the demise.

        1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          Re: Er ...

          But how the elephants get up there in the absence of an infinite improbability drive?

          Amazon prime <click> ...

          elephantidae <click> ...

          African <click> ...

          three <click>

          Deliver to: new address <click> ...

          New Zealand <click>

          two hundred thousand feet<click>

          If nobody answers leave on firey burny thing <click>

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking of American spy satellites

    There appears to be a Russian satellite sneaking up on one...

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of American spy satellites

      Ah yes, informally* known as the "Puti-tat". *(Well, if you're going to insist, then all right, as you say, "not really".)

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