Neutron, Rocket Lab’s new launch vehicle, will be used for satellite mega-constellations, deep space missions, and space flights for humans. Developed using experience gained when building the successful Electron launch vehicle, the 8-ton payload class Neutron features innovative design and materials focused on reusability.
In order to withstand the intense heat and force of launch and re-entry, not only once but for multiple missions, the team at Rocket Lab implemented the use of a new and specially formulated carbon fiber composite material with the mechanical properties required to meet the extreme conditions. Using an automated fiber placement system, the carbon fiber shell can be built quickly.
Another design element in place to allow for reuse is the ‘Hungry Hippo’ fairing jaws. The first stage fairing form part remains fixed to the stage instead of falling away, allowing the Hungry Hippo fairing jaws to release the second stage, a 6-meter-long carbon composite structure. The complete first stage with fairings attached returns to Earth and will be reloaded with a new second stage to be integrated and launched, enhancing launch frequency, cutting costs, and eliminating the need to recapture fairings launched into the ocean.