The California-based aerospace company Rocket Lab has revealed the new details about the next generation, powerful Neutron rocket – a launch vehicle-optimized to carry satellites into orbit for future mega-constellations.
Neutron’s structure will be comprised of a new, specially formulated carbon composite material that is lightweight, strong, and can withstand the immense heat and forces of launch and re-entry again and again to enable frequent re-flight of the first stage. The launch vehicle will also be mostly reusable, designed to land on a landing pad after launch. It starts with Neutron’s unique shape, a tapered rocket with a wide base to provide a robust, stable base for landing, eliminating the need for complex mechanisms and landing legs.
“Neutron is not a conventional rocket. It’s a new breed of the launch vehicle with reliability, reusability, and cost reduction that is hard-baked into the advanced design from day one. Neutron incorporates the best innovations of the past and marries them with cutting-edge technology and materials to deliver a rocket for the future,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder, and CEO.
At 40 meters (131 feet) tall with a 4.5-meter (14.7 ft) diameter, the Neutron rocket will be more than double the size of the Electron. Neutron will be powered by seven entirely new rocket engines, called Archimedes – a reusable liquid oxygen/methane gas generator cycle engine capable of 1-meganewton thrust and 320 seconds of ISP. The rocket will be capable of putting between eight and 15 tons into low Earth orbit.
The captive ‘Hungry Hippo’ fairing design makes Neutron’s design especially unique. This innovative design will see the fairing form part of the first stage structure and remain fixed to the stage. Neutron’s Hungry Hippo fairing jaws will open wide to release the second stage and payload before closing again, ready to return to Earth with the first stage.
According to the company, the advanced 8-ton payload class Neutron launch vehicle is designed to transform space access by delivering reliable and cost-effective launch services for satellite mega-constellations, deep space missions, and human spaceflight.
Rocket Lab is currently working through a competitive process to select launch site, rocket production facility, and Archimedes engine test facility on the U.S. East Coast.