Rocket Lab has successfully completed a launch, delivering a valuable payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The booster which carried the payload has been guided back towards Earth without problems.
The National Reconnaissance Office is responsible for the operation of American spy satellites, and details about the content remain elusive besides the name of NROL-151, which has a high chance of being a codename. A two-stage Electron booster was used for the mission.
It is worth noting that several details have been classified at the request of the NRO. The press release offered by Rocket Lab doesn’t mention any details about the orbital destination of NROL-151. One vague clue is represented by the fact that the final pre-deployment engine was ignited after 50 minutes have passed since the liftoff.
Rocket Lab Booster Reusability Proven After A Successful Launch
The launch marks the eleventh Electron booster launch operated by Rocket Lab. Electron boosters have a height of 57 feet (17 meters) and can lift a payload of up to 500 lbs. (or 227 kilograms). A single Electron booster mission will require a payment of $5 million, which is quite accessible in comparison to the prices offered by other companies. Rocket Lab plans to attract a large number of customers to launch at least one satellite per week.
To complement the strategy, Rocket Labs plans plan to reuse the first stage. During a launch that took place in December 2019, the company guided a booster back to Earth in a controlled descent. The same feat was achieved for the latest launch as the Electron booster fell back in a vertical position that minimized the heat and pressure that are encountered while traveling through the atmosphere.
After data collected during the return objectives will be validated, the Rocket Labs plans to recover the boosters while they decent with the help of a helicopter. In the current case, the booster landed in the Pacific ocean.