back to article Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it an Electron rocket descending to the ocean?

New Zealand's Rocket Lab is set to launch another Electron rocket - a precursor to the rocketeer's first attempt at catching a descending booster. The Register caught up with CEO Peter Beck to discuss helicopters, Mars and visiting Venus. The launch, dubbed "Love at First Insight", is currently scheduled for no earlier than 16 …

  1. DarkwavePunk

    Good to see.

    I like Rocket Lab and it's always good to see other players in the game. Mr Beck seems pretty passionate in the few interviews I seen. Watched the last failed launch live and was sad. Still, we all learn eh?

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Our mathematicians aren't as good as SpaceX

    Look up "Lossless Convexification of Nonconvex Control Bound and Pointing Constraints of the Soft Landing Optimal Control Problem" which is a 2013 IEEE paper. One of the authors is with SpaceX

    Holy O'Fuck. I've played lots of KSP, but that math left me far, far behind. Like talking quantum physics to a sheep, far behind.

    I don't even really understand what the title means, except it's somehow "how to land rockets on barges without earth-shattering kabooms"

    The bios of the authors at the end are especially entertaining.

  3. Giles C Silver badge

    Helicopter catching

    I know the military have retrieved film canisters and occasionally people using the helicopter / plane catch technique.

    But when you a dealing with a rocket motor that is completely different - these things have got to weigh multiple tonnes in weight and the snatch as it is caught….

    All I can say is they must be very good pilots

    1. DarkwavePunk

      Re: Helicopter catching

      I'd guess that there are good helicopter pilots and dead ones with a small overlap on the Venn diagram. I heard a tale from someone who saw a pilot put a teabag in in a mug from a helicopter in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Probably just bollocks, but a nice story.

      Remember that the Electron is rather small, will have lost all its fuel and be descending via parachute. Still don't think I'd want to be on that particular ride when they actually try it.

    2. Spherical Cow Silver badge

      Re: Helicopter catching

      "and the snatch as it is caught"

      He said the helicopter will be descending with the rocket, matching the speed, so there should be almost no jerk as it hooks on.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helicopter catching

      The US Air Force used to catch Teledyne-Ryan drones during the Viet Nam war. Its not like this hasn't been done before

    4. taz-nz

      Re: Helicopter catching

      They are only catching the empty first stage, which being mostly made of carbon fiber has a dry weight of only 0.95 metric tons, according to this spec sheet.

      It may have some small amount of unspent fuel onboard, but it's also yeeted a couple hundred kilograms of battery on it's ascent. so may be lighter that the dry weight which likely included the batteries.

    5. Muscleguy

      Re: Helicopter catching

      NZ does have very good chopper pilots. They are used a lot there. For mustering sheep on some of the big high country stations for eg. For search and rescue missions as well like plucking an injured crewman off a fishing boat down in the Roaring 40’s. They’ve plucked people off high alpine peaks, they routinely put conservation rangers etc down in otherwise inaccessible places and pick them up again. You can go heli skiing on the glaciers.

      And your pilot might be Captain Fantastic himself Richie McCaw in his post rugby job.

    6. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Helicopter catching

      When the USAF were catching film from their spy sats they generally used fixed wing aircraft, rather than helicopters.

      As a comparison, the film-buckets for a KH-9 Hexagon weighed ~400kg and could contain an additional 200kg of film (according to wikipedia), which is roughly in the ballpark of a spent Electron stage.

  4. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Good ol' YT

    Well, it used to be good, but there are plenty of examples of why it's tough to tie a bit of string to a helicopter for hauling things around. It's done a lot, but the question is if it's worth getting the rocket back if even one helicopter goes down and kills the crew?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good ol' YT

      Yes. Yes it is.

  5. G R Goslin


    Has anyone considered the effect of the helicopters downdraught, on the parachutes slowing down the booster? I can see the controlled fall translated into an instant free fall, as the parachute is folded around the booster

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