Space

Rocket Lab's reusable Neutron rocket is built for human spaceflight

Rocket Lab's reusable Neutron ...
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck stands in front of the payload fairing for the company's Neutron rocket
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck stands in front of the payload fairing for the company's Neutron rocket
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Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck stands in front of the payload fairing for the company's Neutron rocket
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Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck stands in front of the payload fairing for the company's Neutron rocket
The specs for Rocket Lab's forthcoming Neutron rocket
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The specs for Rocket Lab's forthcoming Neutron rocket
Rocket Lab's neutron rocket will have a lift capacity many times that of its Electron booster
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Rocket Lab's neutron rocket will have a lift capacity many times that of its Electron booster
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Rocket Lab has made a name for itself in short space of time by focusing on highly frequent launches of small satellites, but now the space startup believes it has bigger fish to fry. The company has today revealed plans for a bigger reusable rocket named Neutron, which it will build to launch astronauts and cargo into low-Earth and possibly far beyond.

Rocket Lab first reached orbit with its Electron booster in 2018 and has since launched almost 100 satellites, specializing in small payloads of up to 300 kg (660 lb). It is now expanding the purview of these launch services to include much larger payloads for commercial, civil and military customers partaking in cargo and crewed missions, with its newly announced medium-lift Neutron rocket.

Rocket Lab's neutron rocket will have a lift capacity many times that of its Electron booster
Rocket Lab's neutron rocket will have a lift capacity many times that of its Electron booster

The two-stage launch vehicle will be be 40 m (131 ft) tall and feature a payload fairing with a diameter of 4.5 m (14.7 ft). Cargo of varying weight can be loaded into that fairing depending on where it is headed, with the Neutron designed to offer a lift capacity of 8,000 kg (17,636 lb) to low-Earth orbit, 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) to the Moon and 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) to Mars.

The rocket will be launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, and will feature a reusable first-stage designed to land on an ocean platform à la SpaceX. While the payload capacity of Neutron will be many times that of Rocket Lab's Electron booster, it pales in comparison to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, which was the most powerful rocket in operation when it launched in 2019 and has a lift capacity of 63,800 kg (140,700 lb). But as Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck explains, that is kind of the point.

"Efficiently building the mega constellations of the future requires launching multiple satellites in batches to different orbital planes," he says. "It’s a requirement that all too often sees large launch vehicles fly with payloads well below their full lift capacity, which is an incredibly expensive and inefficient way to build out a satellite constellation. Neutron’s 8-ton lift capacity will make it ideally sized to deploy satellites in batches to specific orbital planes, creating a more targeted and streamlined approach to building out mega constellations.”

Rocket Lab expects to launch Neutron for the first time in 2024. You can check out the promo video below.

Introducing Neutron

Source: Rocket Lab

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5 comments
GeoffreyR.Gunning
No mention of the fuels used. I see no sign of ice from cryogenic storage of H2 & O2, so intrigued to know what they are using
comet
Truly amazing.

Out on the sleepy Mahia peninsula is Rocket Labs first launch site.
I hope they intend to launch a Neutron from here before I die.

I’ve only a few years left on this planet, but I can see Mahia from my bed, as I live just across the bay from Mahia.

Peter Beck is an inspiration to any budding engineer.
It was merely 11 years ago when he launched his first rocket from Mercury island as a kid.
What an amazing, visionary man.
And he’s so young.
We kiwis are very proud of you, Peter.
comet
To Geoff. It uses kerosene and LOX. Prior to launch, the black carbon fibre body is heavily frosted, and looks fantastic. They live stream every launch, which are extremely educational and worth watching. They describe clearly all the different things going on as the rocket transforms into a homesick angel.
Derek Howe
Nice, Looking forward to see this sucker launch in a few years.
GeoffreyR.Gunning
@Comet: Thanks so much for the explanation!