Next, Rocket Lab will attempt to recover a full Electron first stage following a launch. It won’t pull that from the air but will retrieve the rocket stage after it lands in the ocean. A parachute will help slow its descent, and like previous versions, it will include instrumentation to “inform future recovery efforts.” That mission is planned for late 2020.
Of course, catching a rocket stage after an actual launch is a lot different than catching one that’s dropped neatly by a helicopter. But the feat is a key milestone, as Rocket Lab’s plans to reuse the rockets depend on this recovery method. If it’s successful, Rocket Lab will be able to lower costs, and in theory, that may lead to more launches.