back to article Rocket Lab to attempt mid-air recovery of descending booster

Rocket Lab is to attempt the recovery of an Electron rocket tomorrow night, snagging the booster as it descends back to Earth by parachute. The launch, which is due to take place at 2235 UTC on April 29, is the company's 26th and has been dubbed "There And Back Again" for reasons to delight both Tolkien fans and reusable …

  1. John Robson Silver badge

    Fingers and toes

    Very much crossed... should be good

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Fingers and toes

      Judging by the Black Caps recent Test Match performances, there's some chance this will end with a loud shout of "butterfingers".

    2. Mark 85

      Re: Fingers and toes

      <Very much crossed... should be good>

      That will make it tough to have some popcorn while watching, I would think.

  2. Swarthy

    I would love to watch this!

    Does anyone know where/if it will be streamed?

    1. Peter Mount

      Re: I would love to watch this!

      Usually on their stream on youtube

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: I would love to watch this!

      RocketLab warned of intermittent radio connectivity in the recovery area so we might not get to see it all.

      Blue Origin keeps demanding a competitor to SpaceX. RocketLab delivers.

  3. heyrick Silver badge

    Wait, so they want to catch something falling out of the sky with a helicopter?

    I'm not sure whether that's awesome or batshit crazy.

    There's also

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Found a video of a test run -

      Horrible music, but kinda leaning towards the awesome side. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Did you read the link in the article about a plan to catch a Saturn V booster with a helicopter? Now that was a batshit plan.

    3. Filippo Silver badge

      > I'm not sure whether that's awesome or batshit crazy.


  4. Peter Mount

    Stream URL now available

    Here's the Youtube link for the actual stream of tomorrows launch:

    It's scheduled to start at 23:05 April 29th, weather permitting

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Stream URL now available

      As far as I can tell, that time is BST, so that'll be 22:05 UTC (although I think youtube will automatically show you the time in whatever timezone your browser is set to).

  5. Wellyboot Silver badge


    Intercepting a rocket with a helicopter...

    The chopper pilot isn't Russian with recent experience of this by any chance?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      Well hopefully there won't be as much boom and smoke after the helicopter catches the rocket.

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Sample returns

    Speaking of samples smacking into the Utah desert... the Mars Sample Return container is planned to do just that. No parachutes, nothing.

    After Genesis, they thought "How do we do a backup of the parachute?" and the answer was "You don't, parachutes are about the most effective decelerator there is, by mass. anything else would weigh a ton"

    "So then what do we do if the chute fails?" "Well, you can beef up the capsule to survive it"

    And then they realized if you beef up the capsule that much, you don't lose anything by just deleting the parachute.

    So if things work out there's going to be an earth shattering kaboom when the Mars samples come back.

    1. innominatus

      Re: Sample returns

      You mean "earth shattering kaboom" figuratively I hope

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Sample returns

        Without a chute it's coming down in exactly the same way as a meteorite, so unless it has clever method to slow down* there will be a high altitude sonic boom followed by a momentum derived impact event.

        To my thinking, the vehicle that will be used for Mars-Earth transit will have the ability to provide course corrections and a controlled Earth orbital insertion so why not just park it in LEO and pick it up later, they can then save the 'beefing up' launch weight on this mission.

        The alternative is that they're aiming at a big 'X' in Utah from Mars orbit. This level of accuracy is crazy, the target is 65 million km away and moving faster that the vehicle you're sending, so you have to aim ahead by a few hundred million km to intercept as it overtakes the launch point. Just hitting Utah from Mars (State area is 560x435km on a rotating fast moving target) is like hitting a tyre valve on a moving car from 10km with a nerf gun.

        *that would normally be the parachute it's not packing.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Sample returns

          They're doing something in between. On the return he vehicle won't have enough delta-V remaining to fully bring it back into LEO (because that would mean schlepping a lot of fuel to Mars and back. But it will have some maneuvering fuel left. Basically when returning from Mars it'll aim to get as close as possible to the predicted trajectory, then as the spacecraft gets closer and closer to earth they use the DSN to get a more and more accurate fix on it's exact trajectory and execute a series of correction burns to get the trajectory spot on, such that when the spacecraft get's back to earth it aerobrakes sufficiently before it does it's final lithobraking maneuver. So they're not really shooting at Utah from Mars, but more shooting at earth from Mars, and then steering the projectile along the way to hit the Utah desert. Potentially they'll have some limited RCS or reaction wheel control to steer during re-entry too but I'm not sure on that

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: Sample returns

        That depends what Marvin decides to send back to us.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Sample returns

      The conspiracy nuts must be wondering if that plinth that was out in the Red Rocks area was broadcasting a signal as a test target for this kind of thing :-)

      1. Mark 85

        Re: Sample returns

        The conspiracy nuts must be wondering if that plinth that was out in the Red Rocks area was broadcasting a signal as a test target for this kind of thing :-)

        Shh... you'll wake them up and they'll all be leaving their mom's basements.

  7. jake Silver badge

    ::mental note::

    Don't volunteer for helicopter "special duty".

  8. sreynolds

    I'll only watch....

    If the Huey is remote controlled by someone wearing a scarfe and holding a white cat.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I'll only watch....

      It's not a Huey. It's a Sikorsky S-92.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: I'll only watch....

        .... details...

      2. AdamT

        Re: I'll only watch....

        If they make a film of this it will sound like a Huey...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: I'll only watch....

          "If they make a film of this it will sound like a Huey..."

          Not if, when. And yes, it undoubtedly will.

          About a million years ago, I watched a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane placing a satellite dish on the roof of ::mumble:: ... Naturally, they hired a professional video crew to document this exciting day. When the 10 minute film was shown to The Board, the Sikorsky's very distinctive twin engine sound had been replaced by that of a Huey. I laughed, and got yelled at :-)

  9. imanidiot Silver badge


    Due to less than perfect weather conditions RocketLab has chosen to delay the launch to no earlier than May 1st

    Source: Rocketlabs Twitter

  10. herman Silver badge

    Hiller’s Saturn catcher

    It is a pity that the Hiller copter was not built. Catching a Saturn booster would have been quite something.

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