Rocket Lab developing refurbished Electron Launch Vehicles

April 12, 2024
RocketLab Electron Rocket

Rocket Lab USA, Inc.  announced it is returning a previously flown Electron rocket first stage tank into the Electron production line for the first time in preparation for reflying the stage. The step is a significant milestone in Rocket Lab’s development program to make Electron the world’s first reusable small orbital launch vehicle.

“Rocket Lab has successfully recovered multiple Electron first stages from previous missions by returning them to Earth under a parachute after launch, splashing them down in the ocean, then collecting them onto a specially modified boat for transfer back to Rocket Lab’s production complex. All previously recovered boosters have undergone extensive analysis to inform an iterative development process to make Electron reusable, but this is the first time a tank has been moved back onto the standard production line in preparation for reflight.

The stage was successfully launched and recovered as part of the ‘Four of a Kind’ mission on 31 January 2024 and has already passed more acceptance tests than any other recovered Electron stage,

The stage will now undergo final fit out and rigorous qualification and acceptance testing to the same standard as a brand-new Electron tank to determine the recovered stage’s suitability for reflight.

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“Through an iterative development process, we have methodically perfected each step of Electron recovery while simultaneously continuing to increase our Electron production capacity and launch cadence. This is the exciting final piece of the puzzle before Electron goes reusable,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Our key priority in pushing this stage back into the standard production flow for the first time is to ensure our systems and qualification processes are fit for accepting pre-flown boosters at scale. If this stage successfully passes and is accepted for flight, we’ll consider opportunities for reflying it in the new year.”

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