The concept of a new Neutron rocket. Rocket Lab specifies the assumptions

Rocket Lab’s CEO, Peter Beck, presented during an occasional videoconference at the beginning of December this year. details of the project assuming the construction of a new missile – a medium-class launch system, Neutron. These are the first details since the company announced plans earlier this year.

An online briefing was conducted on December 2 this year. – during it, a graphic vision of the project and extended information about the announced spacecraft were presented. “The Neutron is not a conventional rocket. It is a new breed of launcher where reliability, reusability and cost reduction are embedded in advanced design from the very first moment,” announced Peter Beck. “It’s an absolute beast,” he added.

The new space vehicle from Rocket Lab is to stand out from the competition – primarily based on a single, compact outer segment with an integrated, mechanically extending to four sides cargo cover. What the rocket will carry in the hold hatch will not be the satellite payload itself, but the entire upper segment – then released on the approach to orbit. The characteristic floating fairing (called “Hungry Hippo”, due to the association with the open mouth of a hippo) will be resealed after the contents are released to allow the entire compact system to safely return to Earth.

During the Rocket Lab videoconference, it was announced that the new device would not have foldable supports as a landing gear, but a large and wide base with integrated brackets. The entire structure of the rocket is to be largely made of carbon composite.

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An important advantage of the Neutron is the ability to “almost immediately” restart after returning, requiring only a preparatory inspection, installing a new load and filling the propellant tanks. As for the propulsion, the system is to use a completely new unit – the Archimedes engine, powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The rocket will be powered by seven such engines.

The parameters of the Neutron are expected to be sufficient to bring up to 8,000 kg of cargo to a low orbit when the first stage is to return to Earth. In turn, in a one-time configuration, the system is to be able to lift up to 15,000 kg.

In all its glory, the new Rocket Lab space rocket will measure almost 40 meters in length. The second stage is designed so as not to leave behind a large amount of dangerous fragments. The first stage will return to Earth and land on a hardened launch pad, which means that you will not land on an ocean barge, which will translate into lower operating costs.

Rocket Lab declares that it is in the process of selecting the place of launch and production. The company has also started talks with potential customers for the services provided using the Neutron system, including those planning to expand their satellite constellation. The vehicle will also have all the predispositions to handle manned flights.

The first Neutron test flight is expected to take place in 2024. In turn, the first flight for a commercial customer would be possible a year later.

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