Rocket Lab launched its 10th Electron spacecraft on Friday morning, efficiently delivering payloads for purchasers Spaceflight and Alba Orbital. The launch firm additionally had an vital secondary mission for this launch: Testing out the steering, management and navigation methods of their first stage rocket restoration system.

Rocket Lab introduced earlier this 12 months that it could be aiming to transform its Electron launch system into {a partially} reusable one, after initially designing and working it as a one-time use launcher and spacecraft. To that finish, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck revealed how the corporate will look to impact a managed re-entry for the Electron first-stage rocket booster, after which it’ll be caught mid-air by a helicopter because it descends at a velocity slowed by an onboard parachute.

This morning’s launch offered a check for a key factor of that system the re-entry management and navigation tools and software program that helps the first-stage impact the essential first a part of restoration, by returning to Earth’s ambiance after separating from the remainder of the launch automobile.

The primary stage re-entry appears to have gone in line with plan, as Rocket Lab on Twitter termed it a “successful guided re-entry of stage 1.” Actually, Beck mentioned that the Stage 1 restoration really went “better than expected,” which signifies it outperformed no matter parameters the corporate had set to outline success on this case most likely fairly broad as a result of the entire goal of the re-entry on this occasion was to check and collect knowledge.

Rocket Lab’s strategy differs from SpaceX’s first stage restoration course of, which the corporate demonstrated but once more throughout a launch earlier this week. Rocket Lab received’t be utilizing propulsion to attain both re-entry or touchdown, like SpaceX does, which shall be extra environment friendly and sensible for a smaller launch automobile. As a substitute, it’s turning the booster round in house utilizing a managed burn to orient it optimally for a re-entry that helps it shed sufficient of its velocity to permit it to deploy its parachute and descend at a charge the place it may be caught by the helicopter a maneuver that’s really comparatively easy in comparison with a propulsive touchdown, regardless of its seeming complexity.

Relying on what occurs with restoration of this booster, which Rocket Lab didn’t try to catch mid-air however which it’s hoping to recuperate from the ocean, we should always get an concept of subsequent steps together with probably once we’ll see an try to not simply recuperate a rocket, but in addition refurbish and reuse it.

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