Rocket Lab reveals plans for reusable multiuse Neutron rocket
California-based Rocket Lab has revealed plans for its advanced reusable Neutron launch vehicle.
The 8-ton payload class rocket is designed for mega-constellation deployment, interplanetary missions and human spaceflight.
To be launched from Virginia, United States, Neutron will build on Rocket Lab’s proven experience developing the reliable workhorse Electron launch vehicle, the second most frequently launched American rocket annually since 2019.
Where Electron provides dedicated access to orbit for small satellites of up to 300kg, Neutron will provide a dedicated service to orbit for larger civil, defence and commercial payloads that need a level of schedule control and high-flight cadence not available on large and heavy lift rockets.
Neutron will be capable of lifting 98% of all satellites forecast to launch through 2029.
The launch vehicle will be able to introduce highly disruptive lower costs by leveraging Electron’s heritage, launch sites and architecture.
The medium-lift Neutron rocket will be a two-stage launch vehicle that stands 40 metres tall with a 4.5-metre diameter fairing and a lift capacity of up to 8,000kg to low-Earth orbit, 2,000kg to the Moon, and 1,500kg to Mars and Venus.
Neutron will feature a reusable first stage designed to land on an ocean platform, enabling a high launch cadence and decreased launch costs for customers.
Initially designed for satellite payloads, Neutron will also be capable of International Space Station resupply and human spaceflight missions.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, said: “Rocket Lab solved small launch with Electron. Now we’re unlocking a new category with Neutron.
“We’ve listened to our customers and the message is clear – biggest doesn’t always mean best when it comes to constellation deployment,” Beck added.
“Neutron’s 8-ton lift capacity will make it ideally sized to deploy satellites in batches to specific orbital planes, creating a more targeted and streamlined approach to building out mega constellations,” said Beck.
Neutron launches will take place from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
By leveraging the existing launch pad and integration infrastructure at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Rocket Lab eliminates the need to build a new pad, accelerating the timeline to first launch, expected in 2024.
Rocket Lab is currently assessing locations across the continental United States to establish a new state-of-the-art factory to support large-scale Neutron manufacturing.
Founded in 2006, and headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab is a global leader in launch, satellites and spacecraft components.
The company currently operates launch sites in Māhia, New Zealand and Wallops Island, Virginia.