RocketLab & Reusable Rockets – Plasma Knives, Ballutes, Helicopters and… Elephants

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RocketLab have become the leading dedicated smallsat launch provider with their small Electron rocket able to launch 150kg into low earth orbit for about 5million dollars. As a private space company they’ve been getting lots of comparisons to SpaceX but until now the CEO Peter Beck had maintained that unlike SpaceX they would not be reusing rockets. On Tuesday they announced that the company had plans to develop this technology, using an entirely passive booster descent profile and capture by a Helicopter.
And they’re not the only launch provider looking seriously at recovering and reusing rocket hardware, this week China launched a Long March 2C rocket with grid fins steering the booster to its final impact point.

  1. Tommo land

    I’m sorry Scott but I don’t like the new intro. love the episode tho

  2. danny powers

    and if you can’t fly safe, fly dangerous.

  3. Marvin Kitfox

    The air-catching is no problem, although they will need quite a bit of practice to get it reliable.
    The reentry, with a carbon fiber body, will be *scary*!
    But i think the main problem will be margins. At the scale they are working at, the percentage of mass needed for recovery hardware is much larger than with the F9 for example.
    And yes, economy. Recovery is a near-fixed cost, and the value of what they are recovering is much, much less.
    It may work, but i doubt it will be worthwhile.

  4. Rick Sanchez C137

    “That’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for em.” —Pepper Brooks (color commentator for ESPN 8’s, The Ocho)

  5. BrokenLifeCycle

    Will RocketLab make an Electron Heavy variant?

  6. Jackalovski

    How long before we get the electron heavy? Three carbon fibre tanks bolted together

  7. James Dallas

    Recovering flown articles may also help them gather data to improve their rockets. For example if they discover parts are coming back broken they can focus on strengthening them

  8. greg mcdonald

    Scott Manley. Would you mind doing a video about the grid fins?

  9. Deltuhvee

    Naming the booster electron probably caused some misunderstanding with the chemists.

  10. Hans

    Well, if they can get Airwolf, they don’t really need a ship. Kick in those turbos and have the rocket back on the launch pad within the hour.

  11. skunkyTM

    4:58 come on now, that’s a space-doobie if ever I saw one

  12. Coyne Wiggins

    Hey Scott! Thanks for all of your great videos! Why did it seem like the merlin vacuum engine’s nozzle was moving around(like rippling) when it was firing? Don’t remember seeing it before.

  13. Eexpers

    Never before has there been so much focus and demand solely for commercial space development
    I have a feeling the world is gonna change in a big way akin to plastics – something subtle people hardly notice because they’re accustomed to it but have a massive impact

  14. Diego González

    PLD in Spain is following the same solutions of Electron. It’s supossed to be a launch this year from south Spain of a suborbital demo (Miura 1, yes like the Lamborghini) with a 100Kg payload.

  15. Seth Adkins

    Did you really have a ship from Battlestar Galactica in the intro?

  16. AwesomeSauce

    The more I see other attempts at reusable rockets, more impressive what SpaceX is able to do regularly seem. Damn Starship would be a sight to behold!

  17. ixglocTV

    “What’s that strange noise?” my Mom just asked.
    Well Mom, it’s the voice of Scott Manley.

  18. Karl Pilkington

    Surely there’s a better way to harness the wind power on the way down to navigate it into a cushioned landing spot

  19. The GreenBean

    I laughed at Elon when he said he was going to land rockets upright and reuse them.
    I won’t laugh at RocketLab and be made to look a fool again.

  20. Karl Brundage

    Dude…….. The BSG opening was EPIC!

  21. Hondo

    TeleDyne has a history of recovery drones with a helicopter, I watched the “Buffalo Hunters” recover FireFlies with a CH-3 chopper. so we being doing this since at least the 1960s

  22. jay deister

    “Space, rocketry, stellar physics, etc., has always been cool, but then it went mainstream.’

  23. A ReliableSource

    Thanks for this video. I have never heard of “RocketLab” before.

  24. Christopher Carr

    I suppose the math only _just_ works out — what with the expense of recovery with the boats and helicopters and whatnot — when you account for the doubling of launch frequency.

  25. UniTrader

    Offer to Peter Beck: Either a Video of him eating his Hat, or Videos of all recovery Attemps. his choice :D

  26. Tra-Vis Kaiser

    Kick assendicus new intro!
    Reminds me of the 90s galaxy class screensaver.
    Anyplace specific we can get it from?

  27. nesa1126

    I love how much is everybody working on reusable rockets now when spaceX showed it is possible. Awesome.

  28. George Cary

    How can I not find any comments about that damn fine battlestar-esk intro 😍
    Manley u have outdone itself sir

  29. spider0804

    The space industry will move twords re-usability for everything whether people want it to or not. It makes a more effective and competitive business.

  30. B4its2L8guy

    Helicopter recovery of a booster. Good luck with that.

  31. Anthony Paull

    Agreed he can keep his hat on his head if he commits to livestreams

  32. Ziom Krzysztof

    Should work, they already did something similar in the 2010 remake of the A-Team

  33. Bill Seidel

    This would be great. Can’t wait to see their first effort! 👍 Love also to see Blue Origin do something new

  34. Chad C

    “SSTO? ..good luck with that.” lol

  35. cup of coffee

    Battlestar Galactica…
    Loved that intro. :))

  36. spambot71

    4:35 i misread this as “an electron” and was trying to imagine what could possibly cause such pressure

  37. Markius Fox

    Fund raising idea: RocketLab parafoils and ballutes for skydiving.


    I get it but powered landings make rockets a spectator sport.

  39. sulijoo

    Ballute is now my new favourite word.

  40. Brenda Rua

    I had no idea! Had I not heard it first from you, I’d be checking my calandar and wondering how we got to April 1st so fast! Wow!

  41. geuis

    Catch a falling rocket, put it in my pocket…

  42. Bikerchris

    Nice father Ted reference 👏 and the rest of the video was great too of course! 👍

  43. SkulShurtugalTCG

    What is this, KSP?

  44. Daniel Antone

    “It’s close and those people are far away!”

  45. Captain Arnoldz

    Can someone explain briefly to me what rocketlabs vision is?
    Is their final design to be landed via helicopter?
    Whom is their target?
    What is their goal?
    Thank you, and sorry but I just couldn’t be bothered to do any research on my own right now.

  46. conquer4

    ahh rocketlab, reminding me of the Genesis mission even today.

  47. Andy Romaq Smith

    I’m with you. He doesn’t need to eat his hat, just share the damn video! :)

  48. Jon Freeman

    That’s hilarious I just got done watching some Battlestar Galactica.

  49. Patrick O

    53 non-reusable launch provider employees downvoted this. 101624ZAUG19 Haha.

  50. Charles W

    Thank god you’ve changed the intro music. Good video!

  51. firefly4f4

    The possibility of increased launch frequency is a great point Peter made. Even if the cost of recovery is roughly the same as making an entirely new booster in terms of dollars, the time saved by having another booster available for use almost immediately makes it worth the effort. If it’s done right as he says, then they may even be able to take it right back to the launch site, do a bit of cleanup, and launch again within a day or two, and even if that second launch is expended that’s a lot of time saved.
    Sure, you still need a new upper stage and possibly kickstage, but if you shift production to produce more of those instead of lower stages, you can make up for it.

  52. Adrian Daw

    Thanks for the nod to Father Ted.. The people are far away lol

  53. PhilfreezeCH

    11:06 why did you not include the „these cows are small, these are just far away“ clip?

  54. Tom Ryner

    It’ll work out just fine. Peter Beck is an engineer and owner of Rocket Lab. If he believes it’ll work then I believe it will trustworthy as he is. And he wouldn’t hold a press conference if he didn’t believe in it 100%

  55. spacetaco1

    Rocketlab’s helicopter looks like Airwolf

  56. James Sawyer

    Im so glad that the space industry is now being revolutionize.

  57. rpbsjy

    SpaceX lost a booster recently due to reentry heat damage, yet they do burns to slow the descent rate. How is rocket lab going to avoid the same problem without burning, and how is the ballute going to survive opening at supersonic speeds?

  58. Anarchy Antz

    Single stage to orbit…… *pause* ….. good luck with that.
    I genuinely laughed out loud at that.

  59. Randall Wald

    If you want to see a video of this happening, check out this from Lockheed Martin and PDG Aviation Services, where they do exactly what Rocket Lab is proposing. And by “exactly” I mean “the skyhook is identical in terms of shape and coloration, and the dummy payload is Electron booster sized.” The only substantive difference is that a droge chute is used instead of the balute, to string the catch-line across. Seriously, either Rocket Lab saw this video and decided to copy it, or Rocket Lab has been working with Lockheed on this very problem (which isn’t inconceivable, Lockheed Martin invested in Rocket Lab back in 2015).

  60. trickeyD

    Okay Dougal, one last time… This rocket is small, but the people back there are far away.

  61. RogerWilco

    I really like how Elon Musk has forced several industries to completely change their thinking and designs.
    He is being really disruptive, but as a force for good, pushing humanity forward.

  62. RocKiteman _ 2001

    @Scott Manley >>> I did a quick Giggle search and found that at least one company’s large cargo-carrying parafoil has a glide ratio of 4.5:1. Starting at 35,000 feet {as the same webpage lists}, IF my quickie math is correct that means the parafoil CAN cover 25 miles horizontally while descending.
    The webpage I referenced:
    *NOTE:* I _heavily_ edited this comment after posting it. At first I just suggested that Scott {eventually use} an image of the _EAS Excalibur_ from *BABYLON 5* and its short-lived spin-off *CRUSADE* for the opening of his videos. It THEN occurred to me to add the paragraph above. I case someone _”Liked”_ this comment for the ORIGINAL VERSION, I wanted to explain the change.
    *NOTE 2:* This is ONLY VERY WILD SPECULATION on my part: If _RocketLab_ could put some form of extendable propeller powered by a small reciprocating engine, it could turn the booster into _powered parafoil_ {MY personal nickname for a “powered parachute”} and extend its gliding range.
    That said, I PRESUME folks at RocketLab have ALREADY considered this….

  63. Selby Press

    I’m pretty sure there was a Farther Ted reference in there mate

  64. Andreas Schäfer

    I really like your new Intro.
    Nice and chill.

  65. dfgdfg

    Please talk about the *Burble Fence* :)

  66. Hans611

    “And here we have an SSTO…yeah good luck with that” haha

  67. Rok Adamlje

    Since Rocketlab is on the high end of high power electric motors and batteries, will they use an electric helicopter?

  68. Jesse Sorensen

    We’re kiwis, we’ll just use number 8 wire to catch it! DUH! Hehe

  69. Ivan

    Any number of Aerospace Companies: We have a SSTO currently in development.
    Scott Manley: Good luck with that!

  70. Hope Maris

    My dradis detects a new intro

  71. 5chr4pn3ll

    Catching parachutes with helicopters seems SO dangerous.
    Wish them luck but damn…

  72. K2_Robotics

    We all have to be pleased to have the opportunity to life these amazing “industrial space” moments!


    Cool intro, hadn’t seen that one yet.

  74. My name is Ozymandias

    And of course, SpaceX coming in to steal their lunch ahh… I mean launches.

  75. nzoomed

    I totally could see this coming with rocketlab! making their rockets reusable will really cut down costs and make it really affordable for small sats.

  76. markiangooley

    “I’ll buy a little parachute
    (A common parachute with wings),
    I’ll fill it full of arrowroot
    And other necessary things”

  77. The NotFlat Earth

    Who would win
    200 million worth of equipments
    One windy boi

  78. antsolja

    thats actually quite unexpected of china to actually care about dropping stages on people

  79. Don Guru de Bro

    Ahh, i just love all those small jokes and awesome quotes you do – in that video alone i giggled at least 7 times, usally not even comedy channels manage that rate.
    Never change, i love what you do! <3

  80. Mr. Nagant

    Spanish PLD Space private company is trying to make another reusable microlauncher with slightly increased payload mass than Electron IIRC.
    Rocket is called Miura 5. Market is getting interesting. Go check them out!

  81. Francois Leveille

    “…and of course SpaceX coming in to steal their lunch… I mean launches…” That’s a really good one! I suppose they steal both!

  82. FHM Consulting

    The best thing about Rocketlabs launches is counting the sheep in the paddock. Marketing opportunity for woolly earmuffs guys!

  83. Keith Carter

    Exciting times ahead in space; the next decade is going to be wild 👌

  84. The NotFlat Earth

    The cool satellites always sit at the back of the fairings

  85. Sean McDonough

    8:36 – Maybe they’re planning to just fly it over to whatever ship happens to be in the area, and pay the captain to bring it back to shore?

  86. BenHarryKirk

    Don’t even have lightsabers and we need to try and make things lightsaber-resistant anyways…
    …Why can’t we have nice things?

  87. Kelby Garside

    Captured mid-air by Airwolf. Nice.

  88. MojoBeast: Science Yeti

    I’d buy a “SSTO: Good Luck With That” T-shirt. 😁

  89. Mathias T.W.P

    RETALT 2: Believes in itself, just following it’s dreams.
    Scott Manley – being a heartless astrological egg: Yea, good luck with that.

  90. Timit

    Catch a falling rocket, put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.

  91. Jeffrey Bue

    I’m wishing Rocket Labs success…. SpaceX has ushered in a new/cool space-race. Exciting times for sure. Great content as always Scott. Keep up the good work sir.

  92. ke6gwf

    SpaceX: watch us land so many rockets with our grid fins that when we sacrifice one people cry.
    China: HEY LOOK AT US! We put grid fins on our rockets too! Now we can aim for the suburbs, and crash BETWEEN the houses!

  93. Steve Wright

    The main reason spacex do a reentry burn is to decellerate the rocket in carburising environment, _not_ only to slow it down. That is, the exhaust plume wrapped up and around the rocket during hot re-entry is low temperature and zero oxidising – speaking comparatively that is.. Look at all the soot on the spacex rocket after use and estimate that exhaust gas temperature – far lower that an oxygen fueled plasma knife..

  94. Valentino Meier

    This “Good Luck with that” at 11:56 was absolutely hilarious :D

  95. Smarticus

    I think this is a bit far-fetched, but I was skeptical of SpaceX with propulsive landings too, so we’ll just have to see what happens. Best of luck, Rocket Lab!

  96. Ben Antilles

    Instant thumbs up for the Battlestar Galactica Intro.
    So say we all!

  97. Sean McDonough

    And here I thought using one’s engines as a heatshield would stay restricted to Kerbal Space Program…

  98. Paul Paulson

    The air heats up to ½ surface of the sun. So the temperature is around 3.05*10¹² km².

  99. Cole Smith

    I love that “eat my hat” thing! So happy we have these companies being lead by people with a sense of humor!

  100. I Shoot Stuff

    I saved 15% by switching rocket providers and you can too

Comments are closed.