Rocket Lab released fresh design specifications for its Neutron medium-class rocket on December 2, a vehicle featuring a unique design that the business claims will allow for frequent and low-cost reuse. In a short video presentation, Rocket Lab unveiled Neutron’s redesigned design. The vehicle, which is composed of the carbon composite materials and stands on permanent landing legs, is 7 meters wide at the base and gradually taper. The vehicle’s heat loads were supposed to be reduced during re-entry before arriving back at the launch facility, hence that design was chosen.
The “Hungry Hippo” payload fairing opens in four sections rather than being jettisoned before launch. Before the fairing shuts and the stage re-enters, Neutron launches a lightweight, disposable upper stage with payload. While recovering the first stage, the vehicle is going to place 8,000 kg into low Earth orbit, or a maximum of 15,000 kilos if the very first stage is spent.
Neutron will be propelled by a new engine named Archimedes, which will use methane and liquid oxygen as propellants and produce 225,000 pounds of thrust. Seven Archimedes engines will be used in the first stage, while a single vacuum-optimized variant of the engine will be used in the second stage.
“We’ve built the vehicle from the ground up to be reusable. In an interview, Peter Beck, the CEO of Rocket Lab, remarked, “Every choice is based on it.” He cited an early design decision to turn around the first stage for yet another deployment within 24 hours of landing as an example. “It impacts all of design decisions,” he continued, “not because I expect to relaunch the car every 24 hours.”
According to him, this design necessity led to decisions like having rocket return to launch site instead of landing on a barge. It was also a consideration in the decision to use methane instead of kerosene because the latter produces soot, which takes time to clean out of engines.
Even though Archimedes is a revolutionary engine design, Beck claims the business purposefully chose not to push the performance envelope. He stated, “That’s an area where we’re not inventing.” “What we’re attempting to accomplish is create an engine that is really dependable and capable of flying repeatedly.”
Instead, Rocket Lab is concentrating on the vehicle’s structure. It will be composed of the carbon composite materials, just like the Electron rocket, but with a new technology dubbed automated tape laying, which allows composite structures to be designed and produced at meters per minute. Metallic 3D-printing technologies, on the other hand, generate structures at a rate of millimetres per minute, according to him.