On November 19, Rocket Lab launched its Electron rocket. It placed nearly 30 smallsats in orbit.
Set to go on a mission called “Return to Sender,” the Electron lifted off at 9:20 p.m EST from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand. After about an hour of liftoff, the rocket’s kick stage deployed its payload of 29 smallsats into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.
Another aim of the launch was also to boost recovery. It was an attempt by Rocket Lab to recover the rocket’s first stage. On November 5, it had announced that it would attempt to reenter the stage., deploy a drogue and main parachute, and then splash the stage down in the Pacific Ocean about 400 kilometers downrange from the launch site.
As reported by Spacenews, Rocket Lab announced that the recovery demonstration went as expected, with the stage surviving reentry and deploying the drogue and main parachutes. However, it was not immediately clear what condition the stage was in after splashdown.
Rocket Lab will use a ship to pull the stage out of the water and return it to land, where it will be studied back at the company’s factory.