Vulcan inflatable heat shield test launching on Atlas V in early November

ULA Vulcan inflatable heat shield test

When spacecraft reenter, they need a heat shield to protect them from the immense friction and heat of speeding through the atmosphere. Usually, these are rigid structures, but ULA plans to use an inflatable heat shield to protect the engines of their Vulcan rocket and recover them for reuse. They’ll be testing out that type of heat shield next month.

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SpaceX breaks Falcon 9 reuse record yet again over three launch weekend

Over the weekend, SpaceX launched three Falcon 9 rockets within 37 hours. The first occurred Friday morning, breaking SpaceX’s record for reflown boosters. The record now sits at 13.

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Watch Rocket Lab catch (and then drop) an Electron rocket first stage [Video]

Rocket Lab attempted an air recovery of the first stage of its Electron rocket during the recent “There and Back Again” mission. The company just released new video of the mission, including video from the rocket during the catch.

Rocket Lab drops first caught Electron booster, but it’s not a failure

Earlier today, Rocket Lab launched its ‘There and Back Again’ mission. This was the first Electron launch to feature an air-based recovery, using a helicopter to catch the first stage that was descending under parachute. While the catch seemed good, and Rocket Lab confirmed success, groans heard from mission control made it clear that all was not quite as expected.

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Rocket Lab successfully catches falling rocket with helicopter during ‘There and Back Again’ mission [Update: Not quite]

Reusability is a growing trend in spaceflight – from reusable capsules, space planes, and rocket boosters. Rocket Lab is going all-in on reusability with its Neutron rocket, as is SpaceX with its Starship, but before then, Rocket Lab has adapted and improved its Electron rocket for recovery and reuse.

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Rocket Lab & NASA break ground on facility for Neutron, Rocket Lab’s reusable ‘mega constellation launcher’

In a ceremony on Monday, Rocket Lab broke ground on a new facility for the company’s upcoming Neutron rocket. Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck was joined by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, the director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Dennis Andrucyk, the director of Wallops Flight Facility Dave Pierce, and others for the groundbreaking ceremony.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Falcon 9 reuse

SpaceX has stood out from other rocket companies in their determination to reuse their Falcon 9 boosters as much as possible. Below are some FAQs of booster reuse.

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United Launch Alliance played with the thought of faring reuse but ended up scrapping it

SpaceX has had great success recovering and reusing their payload fairings. In contrast, ULA doesn’t recover or reuse them, but according to CEO Tory Bruno, ULA seriously considered implementing fairing reuse, but the economics didn’t make sense.

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Why doesn’t SpaceX use parachutes on Falcon 9?

This is a commonly asked question about SpaceX Booster Recovery. Why would SpaceX waste fuel igniting the engines and trying to land vertically rather than using parachutes like the Space Shuttle SRB’s did? There are a number of reasons a propulsively landing system is ideal, but they all tie back to SpaceX’s goal of rapid reusability.

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