Peter BeckLast Thursday, the CEO of Rocket Lab provided new details about the company’s plans to build a new neutron rocket. In an interesting video, Beck shares Rocketleb’s vision of the best way to build a reusable missile that can last for decades. According to him, neutrons can be used as missiles to deploy satellite systems, fixed Earth orbiting satellites and even interplanetary spacecraft.
In the current concept, the neutron neutron looks relatively short and fat, and Beck says the shape is designed to both launch and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The lip rocket aims to use a wider missile to increase atmospheric friction while returning to Earth so that less fuel is needed to slow down. The missile structure will be made of special carbon fiber for strength and less weight.
The first phase of the neutron will have fixed landing bases, and the rocket will land only at the launch site instead of landing offshore. Beck says the cost of landing at sea is clearly very high, and the ultimate goal of the lip rocket is to gain the ability to launch neutrons and land and launch them again within 24 hours.
The first phase of the neutron will be powered by seven new rocket engines called Archimedes with methane fuel and liquid oxygen. Beck says the lip rocket will focus on the stability and reusability of the Archimedes engine instead of trying to increase power as much as possible. The company is building Archimedes internally and plans to test engine combustion components in 2022. The primary goal is to reuse each first step up to ten times.
In a conversation with Arestechnica, Beck considered lightweight structures necessary to achieve these goals. “If you can get all the mass out of the structure, then you will not need too much special impulse and too much engine performance,” he said.
The upper stage of the missile also has unique features. The second stage will not be reusable; As a result, it will weigh as little as possible and will be suspended above the first stage. This stage will consist only of an Archimedes engine optimized for vacuum and fuel tanks and the cargo itself.
The cargo frame will leave the second stage by opening into four separate sections and then close before landing on the ground along with the first stage. The freight structure of the cargo is remarkably similar to that of the James Bond movie rocket called “You Only Live Twice”; But Beck sees this resemblance as completely unintended. Neutrons are expected to have the capacity to launch eight tons of cargo into near-Earth orbit and 15 tons in single-use mode in the reusable state.
As part of the video, Beck showed damage to steel and aluminum (two popular choices for rocket structures used for the Starship and Falcon 9 SpaceX launchers, respectively) by colliding with a hard object and comparing the strength of the carbon composite to them.
As with all missile developments, there is no certainty about when the project will be completed, especially missiles with innovative features and many internal improvements. Earlier this year, Beck said the neutron would hit the launch pad by 2024; But in his recent online presentation, he did not mention the date of the initial launch.
In an interview with AresTechnica, Beck said that according to the company’s internal schedules, 2024 has been designated as the year of the test flight. However, he does not want to announce a specific date for the launch. Beck also declined to announce the launch price for neutron customers.
The next rocket launcher will enter the mid-range launcher market, where it will compete with the Falcon 9, which has almost twice the carrying capacity and a unique track record. The Trans-R rocket launcher, built by Realty Space, is another competitor to the neutron. Not to mention that this launcher is also designed with the goal of full reusability.