Rocket Lab, a US launch and space systems company, has revealed that it will attempt to catch a returning rocket booster in mid-air using a helicopter during its next recovery mission.

The move follows the successful demonstration of helicopter shadow operations during the company’s 22nd Electron rocket launch earlier this month. Its next recovery mission is currently scheduled for the first half of next year.

Rocket Lab’s CEO, Peter Beck, said: “As one of only two launch companies to repeatedly recover orbital-class boosters from space, we’re ready to take the final step and begin collecting them mid-air with a helicopter to race us closer to launch, catch, repeat with the world’s first reusable, orbital-class commercial small rocket. A reusable Electron means more rockets and launch opportunities for better access to space for satellite customers, and I’m proud of the Rocket Lab team for continuously pushing the industry forward as the leaders in dedicated small launch.”

Rocket Lab’s previous recovery missions have involved the retrieval of the booster from the ocean after a controlled splashdown under a parachute. To make mid-air recovery possible, the company will modify the parachute system to include an engagement line that will allow the helicopter to capture and secure the booster.

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