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Big setback! Rocket Lab helicopter can’t catch returning booster in mid-air

A Rocket Lab USA Inc helicopter. was unable to catch a booster in mid-air as it returned from space over the Pacific.

A Rocket Lab USA Inc helicopter. was unable to catch a booster in mid-air as it returned from space over the Pacific.

The problem was related to a “telemetry loss” from the first stage of the Electron rocket during reentry, the company said in a tweet Friday. The booster crashed into the Pacific Ocean and a salvage ship will retrieve it, Rocket Lab said.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be bringing Electron home dry today,” said Murielle Baker, a Rocket Lab spokesperson during a live webstream of the attempt. Launched at 1:27 p.m. east from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand site, the mission successfully deployed a science research satellite for the Swedish National Space Agency.

Rocket Lab has tried to catch falling booster rockets before splashing into the ocean in an effort to make rockets reusable, potentially reducing cost and time between launches. In an earlier mission, Rocket Lab captured one of the boosters from its Electron rocket with a helicopter after returning from space, but the pilot chose to drop the rocket into the ocean immediately after capture for technical reasons.

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