A California-based company got closer to pulling off the feat of catching a falling rocket on Tuesday as it seeks to make them reusable for satellite launches.
But after briefly catching a spent rocket, a helicopter crew was quickly forced to let it go again for safety reasons, and it fell into the Pacific Ocean where it was collected by a waiting boat.
Rocket Lab regularly launches 18-meter (59-foot) rockets from the remote Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand to deliver satellites into space.
Their Electron rocket was launched on Tuesday morning and sent 34 satellites into orbit before the main booster section began falling to Earth.
Its descent was slowed to about 10 meters (33 feet) per second by a parachute.
That’s when the helicopter crew sprang into action, dangling a long line with a hook below the helicopter to snag the booster’s parachute lines.
The crew caught the rocket but the load on the helicopter exceeded the parameters from tests and simulations, so they jettisoned it again.