The company that disrupted the smallsat launch industry with its dedicated launcher plans to make the jump to a medium-class launcher. Rocket Lab announced the update would take place on December 2. Read below to learn what we know so far about Rocket Lab’s upcoming Neutron launcher.
What is Rocket Lab’s Neutron rocket?
Rocket Lab’s Neutron rocket is designed to lift most projected payloads for the near future. CEO Peter Beck announced the new rocket in a video back in March of 2021 where he “ate his hat” for changing his mind on Electron reusability.
The new rocket will be a similar height and width to Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket, which makes sense as it will use the same pad on Wallops Island, Virginia. It will also carry the same 8,000 kg to orbit but will feature a reusable, propulsively landing first stage. A vast 180 from the CEO who said they would never make their rockets reusable or build a bigger one.
Why is Rocket Lab building a bigger rocket?
Neutron is being branded as the mega-constellation launcher. Like how Rocket Lab read the market and built Electron for the emerging smallsat industry, Neutron will be tailor-built to fill the need for the new mega-constellations in development.
A final important part of Neutron is that it will be crew rated… yeah, that’s right. Rocket Lab is crew rating a rocket. While what crew capsule will fly on it is unknown, this is a massive step for any space company.
All of this is funded by the money raised during Rocket Lab’s SPAC deal to become a publically traded company.
What do we think this update is for?
We will most likely see a new design. Beck has already shared in the past that the renders of Neutron look nothing like the actual rocket.
“The image you see of Neutron there is a bit of a ruse – Neutron looks nothing like that. Basically, we’re sick of people copying us all the time, so we’ve put that image there as a bit of a – well, at least internally, it’s a joke. I think externally, people are probably busily copying it right now. But that’s not actually what Neutron looks like, and there’s gonna be an announcement here in time where we’ll actually show what we’ve really built.”
Most likely, we expect to learn more about how the first stage will be recovered, what sort of engines will power it, and the materials used in production. All of this would be new, as very little is still known about the rocket.
Check back to Space Explored for coverage of what is announced on December 2.