Rocket Lab unveils plans for the first timecreating a reusable Neutron rocket that can compete with Space X's current Falcon 9. During an online presentation of the project, the CEO of Rocket Lab called Neutron "a real beast."
The future space rocket Neutron belongs tothe middle class of launch vehicles. For the first time, Rocket Lab announced plans to create a large rocket at the beginning of this year. The details of the project are now presented. The Neutron rocket will be quite impressive in size: 40 meters in height and 7 meters in diameter.
Maximum payload that Neutronwill be able to launch into low-earth orbit, will be 15,000 kg. For multiple launches, this value will be 8,000 kg. The company plans to bring Neutron to the launch site in 2024, with the first commercial launches slated for 2025.
Rocket Lab is currently working with smalllaunch vehicles Electron. The competitor SpaceX Falcon 9 can lift up to 22,800 kg of payload into low-earth orbit. Rocket Lab is currently developing a new Archimedes rocket engine, which will be installed on Neutron.
The seven Archimedes engines will drive the firstthe Neutron stage into space, and the eighth engine of the same type will operate in the second stage after entering orbit. In this case, the first stage will return to the launch pad to prepare for the next start.
One of the unique design featuresrocket Neutron is its fairing or nose, which received the informal name "fairing of the hungry hippo." The fairing is connected to the rocket body and is not separated from it when entering space. After entering orbit, the fairing unfolds and releases the second stage, while at the same time it returns to the ground for further use. In this case, the creation of a heavy shell is not required for the second stage.
Rocket Lab plans to create a rocket,capable of re-launching within 24 hours after the first flight into space. The company is currently not working on a capsule for astronauts, and Neutron will be purely a cargo rocket. The first fire tests of Archimedes engines are scheduled for next year.