Another company making use of partially reusable rockets is RocketLab. With a nominal payload capacity of between 200kg and 300kg, their Electron rocket
is designed for delivering smaller-sized satellites to lower Earth orbits, allowing for more frequent and reliable access to space for smaller spacecraft. Recently, RocketLab tested out their first stage recovery systems in the "Return to Sender" mission
, successfully getting the lower stage back to Earth with the use of parachutes. Their long-term goal is to perfect booster capture in mid-air
and its subsequent restoration to allow for its future reuse in the upcoming missions, effectively reducing the launch cost. The usage of reusable rockets not only allows for cutting the costs of access to space but also allows for carrying out missions much more frequently, as then there is no need to fully manufacture the first stage for every launch. Another benefit of utilizing smaller rockets is a higher versatility of launch locations, as a smaller rocket is much easier to transport or manufacture on-site. With a fast pace of development, RocketLab is already becoming another disruptive company
within the spaceflight industry.
The boom of utilizing reusable rockets for spaceflight is not only restrained to the USA, however. Many new companies from around the world have been developing their solutions for quite some time now, and in the upcoming years, we might see a plethora of tests of these new technologies. 2021 could be a major year for a private Chinese space launch company, iSpace, who have been building the next generation of their previously successful Hyperbola-1 launch system. Few sources are available, but the Hyperbola-2 rocket
is said to be a low-cost reusable launch vehicle designed for carrying smaller and medium-sized satellites into lower Earth orbits. The 28-meter rocket should have a lift capacity of approximately 1.9 tonnes to LEO and be about 70-percent reusable. Its maiden flight is scheduled for sometime in 2021.
With many new space launch providers serving the market, the founding of new satellite companies, and even more startups having reliable access to space, these upcoming years could be a time of massive change for the space industry. The world is quickly catching up to the latest standards of new space
, with businesses from all around the world deploying their designs into orbit, pushing the boundaries of technology, and generating a massive amount of data that powers our everyday life. This decade we have an opportunity to establish & refine key space systems by implementing new concepts and technologies. If we play our cards right, we can build something truly outstanding.