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What will Neutron look like, the new rocket for interplanetary human missions that will compete with SpaceX

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The 8-ton, reusable ship was created by Rocket Lab, an aerospace startup founded in New Zealand, which seeks to launch it in 2024.

It all started with a big dream from a desk in New Zealand. But that dream came to life, grew and flew into space. This is the aerospace startup Rocket Lab, which, after succeeding with its Electron light rocket, this week welcomed Neutron, a larger and more powerful rocket, which will be able to perform manned interplanetary missions.

The Neutron rocket will be a two-stage launch vehicle that will have a height of 40 meters, a fairing of 4.5 meters in diameter and a capacity to launch payloads of up to 8000 kilograms into low Earth orbit and deliver up to 2000 kg to the Moon.

Years ago Peter Beckfounder of Rocket Lab, stated at the time, they would never reuse a rocket or build others larger than Electron. And he was sure he would eat his cap if that ever happened. But since one is a slave to the words one speaks, Beck had to record a video announcing the new reusable mega-rocket and immediately destroyed his cap with a blender and drank parts of its framework accompanied by a liquid to digest them.

It’s just the new era of reusable rockets created and consolidated by SpaceX from the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, is here to stay. And the new techniques of space conquests imply lower the costs of the launches since the same today are carried out by the private space industry and not so much by the governments that previously had large budgets to allocate to their space programs.

“Rocket Lab solved a small launch with Electron. Now we’re opening a new category with Neutron. We’ve listened to our customers and the message is clear: bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to deploying constellations. Efficient construction of the mega constellations of the future requires the launch of multiple satellites in batches to different orbital planes. It is a requirement that too often sees large launch vehicles fly with payloads well below their total lifting capacity, which is an incredibly expensive and inefficient way to build a satellite constellation. Neutron’s eight-ton lifting capability will make it the ideal size to deploy satellites in batches on specific orbital planes, creating a more specific and optimized approach to building mega constellations,” Beck said in his presentation.

Neutron will be able to launch large civil, defense and commercial payloads, which require a level of programming control and a high rate of flight not available in large and heavy cargo rockets. For this reason, this new device will be able to raise 98% of all satellites planned for launch until 2029 at a lower price, by taking advantage of Electron’s heritage, launch sites, and architecture.

The Electron rocket, Rocket Lab’s first great product and with which it has begun to generate income, has its advantage that lies in its small size, with lower production and launch costs than others, so it has been of enormous use to send loads of loads into space. But that advantage also became its weakness, since it cannot send large loads or astronauts into space. A booming market with the support of the International Space Station and the ambition to return to the Moon in the coming years.

Being reusable, Neutron has landing legs to retrieve the propellant after launch, a method similar to that used by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. For comparison, Rocket Lab’s electron lift measures 18m and can carry payloads of just over 300kg for small satellite launches. Rocket Lab aims to recover electron boosters by parachuting them to Earth and trapping them in midair with a helicopter.

If all plans go as planned, Neutron will fly in 2024, according to the announcement, and will be reusable and classified for human spaceflight, Beck said in the video, in which he is inside the mid-fairing of the future rocket. The rocket will be launched from the company’s new platform at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where the company also plans to launch future Electron missions. Rocket Lab’s main launch site today is Launch Complex 1, on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula, where the company is building a second platform near its main launch field.

Rocket Lab’s next mission, called “They Go Up So Fast,” is scheduled to launch from New Zealand later this month. It will carry seven small satellites for a variety of commercial and government customers, including the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

The mission will fly Rocket Lab’s Photon Pathstone spacecraft to test technologies for a lunar mission for NASA’s launch later this year.

Neutron’s announcement comes as Rocket Lab merges with Vector Acquisition Corporation. When the two companies finalize the deal later this year, the resulting company, which will use the name Rocket Lab, will be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, according to a statement from the companies. The deal values ​​Rocket Lab at just over $ 4 billion.

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