Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck shows off new shiny Electron, praises reusability

This week, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck shared his thoughts on reusable rockets and shared a new shiny Electron design during a press conference.

The once anti-reusable rocket executive sure has switched up his opinion and is now singing the praises of reusability. Originally Rocket Lab‘s Electron rocket was not designed to be reusable. That is now changing with Beck’s decision to start recovering and reusing the first stage.

I think anybody who’s not developing a reusable launch vehicle at this point in time is developing a dead-end product because it’s just so obvious that this is a fundamental approach that has to be baked in from day one.

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO

Just off the successful recovery of its latest Electron launch, Rocket Lab is changing up the design of its rocket in the name of reusability. A type of graphite was added with the carbon fiber exterior of the first stage. This gives the rocket a slight shine, a change from the black on previous rockets.

The new upgraded Electron booster, red means reusable, at the company’s production facility. Credit: Rocket Lab

Beck expects about 50% of Rocket Lab’s Electron launches will be in its reusable configuration. But, remember, Electron wasn’t designed from the beginning to be reusable. As a result, Rocket Lab has had to get creative with how to bring the first stage back in one piece. Right now the company is using a parachute to have it gently splashdown in the ocean. Soon Rocket Lab will switch to catching Electron out of the air with a helicopter. Beck says we could see that happen as soon as the first half of 2022.

Rocket Lab’s next rocket, Neutron, will change that. Built from the ground up for reusability, Neutron’s first stage won’t use a parachute to be recovered. We are expecting a major update on the development of Neutron next week.

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