Rocket Lab reveals first look at Neutron, a Falcon 9 competitor

The neutron nosecone will not separate from the rocket body after the upper stage is launched. rocket lab

New Zealand aerospace startup Rocket Lab has been busy since the company is working on a large, reusable rocket called the Neutron It was released to the public on Nasdaq in March. On Thursday, Rocket Lab revealed the first details about the rocket, which could be a serious competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in the future commercial launch market.

The neutron belongs to a class called intermediate release boosters. It is designed to be 131 feet high, 23 feet in diameter and with a maximum payload capacity of 15,000 kg (33,000 lb) to low Earth orbit. (For reusable launches, a neutron will be able to carry up to 8000 kg into low Earth orbit.)

Although not as large as the Falcon 9, which stands at 230 feet and can lift up to 22,800 kilograms (50,000 pounds) of payload to low Earth orbit, it is powerful enough to launch many of the cargo missions the Falcon 9 currently uses.

The neutron also has some distinctive features. It will be the world’s first full-size launch booster made of carbon composite 40 percent lighter From aluminum, the most common material used in the manufacture of rockets today. Rocket Lab’s smaller, reusable rocket, the Electron, is made from the same material. A full-fledged two-stage neutron rocket is about two-thirds the height of the Falcon 9, but weighs only one-third (480 tons versus 1,420 tons).

The missile’s light weight facilitates the design of its engine – A The main challenge in building big missiles As seen with the SpaceX spacecraft. Rocket Lab is currently developing an engine called Archimedes to power the neutron. The first stage of the rocket will require seven Archimedes engines to reach orbit, after which the eighth engine will propel the upper stage to its final trajectory.

“The neutron’s lightweight carbon composite structure means Archimedes does not require the massive performance and complexity typically associated with larger rockets and their propulsion systems,” Rocket Lab said in a Thursday press release. “By developing a simple engine with modest performance requirements, the development and testing schedule can be significantly accelerated.”

“This is not a conventional rocket. This is what a rocket should look like in 2050. But we are building it today,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said during a virtual event Thursday morning.

Another unique feature in Neutron’s design is the fairing, or nosecone. The Fairings on existing reusable rockets are designed to detach from the booster after launch of the upper stage and return to Earth’s atmosphere. The neutron fairing will remain attached to the rocket body throughout the flight, will simply open when the upper stage is deployed and then close to return to Earth.

“The answer is not to get rid of the achievements you’re trying to catch — the best way is not to get rid of them in the first place,” Beck said.

Rocket Lab hasn’t announced the date of Neutron’s first flight on Thursday. The company said earlier that it expects to start the first test before 2024. The company said that it is in the process of selecting facilities for the production of missiles and engines, as well as a launch site on the East Coast.

Rocket Lab reveals first details of a neutron rocket, a real competitor to SpaceX's Falcon 9

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