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Watch Rocket Lab catch a falling booster with a helicopter (video)

Rocket Lab has given us new views of its epic booster snag earlier this month.

The company used a helicopter to catch the falling first stage of its two-stage Electron rocket on May 2, during a mission called "There And Back Again" that delivered 34 satellites to orbit.

On Wednesday, Rocket Lab posted on Twitter (opens in new tab) a video of the historic catch. It gives us, among other views, shots from the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter as it eased within range of the booster to snag its parachute line with a hook.

"Now these are views we could get used to," Rocket Lab tweeted, along with the hashtag #ThereAndBackAgain.

Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photos)

A helicopter catches the falling first stage of a Rocket Lab Electron launcher shortly after it lofted 34 satellites on May 2, 2022.

A helicopter catches the falling first stage of a Rocket Lab Electron launcher shortly after it lofted 34 satellites on May 2, 2022. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

The chopper pilots eventually released the booster, "as they were not happy with the way it was flying ... no big deal, the rocket splashed down safely and the ship is loading it now," Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said via Twitter (opens in new tab) on May 2.

He was referring to the company's recovery ship, which next towed the rocket back to shore for analysis. 

Rocket Lab is testing out the helicopter recovery as part of a larger effort to make Electron first stages reusable. If this works, company representatives say this would eventually reduce launching costs while increasing launch frequency. 

The company has elected to use a helicopter over the approach by SpaceX, which uses engine burns to steer its Falcon 9 first stages to a soft touchdown on land or "droneship" platforms at sea. Electron, at 59 feet long (18 meters), is too small for this strategy as the boosters do not have enough fuel to leave aside for landing, Beck has said.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.