Rocket Lab has unveiled plans for a larger rocket that can carry bigger payloads than its current reusable trooper, the Electron. It’s called the Neutron and will be capable of carrying 8 metric tons to low-Earth orbit compared to the Electron’s 660 lbs capacity. Engadget reports: The Neutron will also have a fully reusable first stage that can land on an ocean platform, in the same vein as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster. Rocket Lab is looking to fast-track the rocket’s first flight to 2024 by using the existing launch pad at Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. It’s also scouting sites across the US to build a new factory where the Neutron will be assembled at scale.
The new rocket is designed with an eye to the future of mega-satellite constellations. Its larger payload means it can take multiple small satellites in batches to specific orbital planes, creating a “a more targeted approach to building out” the massive projects, said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO. Demand for the constellations is growing, with the satellite networks enabling better navigation and providing communications in rural areas back here on Earth. The Neutron’s lift capacity also means it should be able to transport 98 percent of all satellites forecast to launch through 2029.
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