Rocket Lab has previously announced that the first test flight of the Neutron rocket is to take place in 2024. It’s hard to say if this schedule is still valid, but at least today Rocket Lab has published a pretty detailed Neutron presentation. Here it is:
The plan is simple. The Neutron is to compete directly with the Falcon 9 – a reusable rocket from SpaceX. The capabilities of both machines will be quite similar. The most important feature of the Neutron will, of course, be reusable, which has been perhaps the most requested feature by the space sector since Falcon 9’s first successful take-off and landing.
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In terms of transport capacity, Rocket Lab says that Neutron will be able to deliver 8 to 15 tons of cargo to low Earth orbit (Falcon 9 can take off with 15.5 tons of cargo). It is mainly about satellite transport for private companies. Just think – SpaceX will soon have to compete with Rocket Lab, so the prices of transporting cargo to orbit will probably drop a bit, thanks to technology that a few years ago seemed a completely absurd idea, to which almost everyone was very skeptical.
The neutron will have a unified structure, which means that the charge cover has been integrated with the part of the rocket that houses the Archimedes engine. According to Rocket Lab, such a construction should help when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, during which the rocket heats up very much. The height of the Neutron is 40 meters, and its bottom diameter is 7 meters.
Interestingly, most of the rocket’s casing elements are made of carbon fiber composite, which is quite light and very resistant to damage. Another interesting fact is that Neutron requires virtually no additional infrastructure in the form of scaffolding and other elements to take off. Just fill up the fuel tanks and you can take off.
At least this is what it sounds like in the official presentation. How will Neutron handle it in practice? It is not known. For now, Rocket Lab is working on prototype fuel tanks, and next year it will definitely show the results of the first Archimedes engine tests. In the meantime, work on the remaining elements of the rocket will probably continue, but will everything be prepared for launch in 2024?