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Rocket Lab launch window opens next week

A rocket launch from Mahia next week will see space company Rocket Lab resume its research into using reusable rockets.

The United States-based company today confirmed its next Mahia mission would take place from May 15.

Named Running Out Of Toes, the launch is the first of four dedicated launches this year for BlackSky, a provider of real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring services.

“Running Out Of Toes will see Electron deploy two 60-kilogram-class Earth-observation satellites to low Earth orbit, where they’ll join three BlackSky satellites previously deployed by Rocket Lab as part of BlackSky’s constellation,” Rocket Lab said in a statement.

“The mission furthers BlackSky’s goal to achieve a 16-satellite constellation by early-2022. Spaceflight Inc. arranged the launch and is providing mission management and integration services for BlackSky. Rocket Lab will, for the first time this year, attempt to bring the launch vehicle back from space as part of its efforts to recover and reuse Electron for future missions.

“Electron’s first stage will undertake a series of complex manoeuvres designed to enable it to survive the extreme heat and forces of atmospheric re-entry during its descent to the ocean.

“For this recovery attempt, Electron will be equipped with a heat shield to help protect the stage’s nine Rutherford engines and a parachute to slow Electron down before its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

“There, Rocket Lab’s recovery team will be stationed with a new retrieval method to recover Electron from the water — the Ocean Recovery Capture Apparatus, or ORCA, a recovery-optimised strong back for Electron.”

Electron’s first stage is expected to return several hundred kilometres out to sea in the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually, Rocket Lab hopes to be able to catch parachuting rockets by helicopter.

The launch window runs from May 15 to May 28.