Four months after that spectacular feat was catch a rocket stage descending mid-airRocket Lab has reactivated one of the engines from that turbocharger – an important step in their roadmap to creating a fully reusable rocket.
The Rutherford Engine, one of the nine engines powering the Electron launch vehicles, went on a “There and Back Again” mission in May, culminating in a live stream of the accelerator as it descended. under an umbrella. In the end they still had to drop it into the sea because it affected the helicopter’s controllability, but other than that it also worked as a charm.
Of course any engines that have been through use will need to be inspected, cleaned and repaired if necessary, especially if they have spent a little time on drinks.
The lucky motor in this case went through the full battery tests the new motor had to pass, eventually detonating for 200 seconds straight. According to Rocket Lab, used engines operate to the same standards required by new engines. You can watch the test from start to finish here:
Don’t worry, it’s not engine parts flying around. These are frozen by freezing so it’s mostly just water and ice.
“Being able to fine-tune the Electron with a minimum of refurbishment is the ultimate goal, and so the fact that the components restored on this engine are done on a test rack with minimal rework is definitive. further acknowledge that we are on the right track,” said Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck in a press release. “If we can achieve this high level of performance from engine parts recovered from the ocean, then I am optimistic and extremely excited about what we can do when we bring back dry engines. on a helicopter next time.”
Reusable boosters are increasingly seen as the best way to achieve both high-speed and relatively low-cost launch operations. Building new engines and rockets is hard work – why throw them away when you’re done? But a rocket designed for single use can be very different from one designed for reuse, and Rocket Lab has been adjusting its approach to approach the latter.
The next mission it will attempt to capture a falling early-stage booster will take place before the end of the year, the company said, but has yet to have a set date.
I asked Rocket Lab for some more details and will update this post if I get a response.