A chat with Rocket Lab's CEO Peter Beck about Neutron, Electron recovery and Rocket Lab's future!

A chat with Rocket Lab's CEO Peter Beck about Neutron, Electron recovery and Rocket Lab's future!

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- Hi, it's me, Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut. I just finished up a conversation with Rocket Lab's founder, CEO, and CTO, Peter Beck. It's an awesome conversation, so here you go. Peter, how's it going? - Good thanks, Tim. - Well, you guys have been awfully busy since I spoke with you, it's almost a year ago, and right off the bat, you came out and you are now someone that has eaten a hat. - Yeah, technically it was two hats, 'cause it took us a lot of takes, but yes, yeah.

- That video, honestly. So for those of you that haven't seen it, I'll probably put it up on screen right now but they, Rocket Lab and Peter Beck, they just came up with this incredible, absolutely gorgeous video, a beautiful well-produced video about your upcoming rocket, the Neutron. So, why don't you give me your elevator pitch on and the overview of Neutron, what it is and why you're building it? - Yeah, well I mean, so I wanted to get all of the things that we said that we'd never do out in one event so I didn't have to eat multiple hats. So that was kind of the justification for talking about everything there. And yeah look, there's tremendous amount of kind of changes within Rocket Lab.

Generally as you know, Tim, we don't talk about things until they're well and truly down the path or even done, you know? Like, "Surprise, we've put a satellite in orbit," sort of thing. But so, but as we transitioned to become a public company, that kind of doesn't work anymore. So we had to kind of make a bunch of announcements. One was obviously we were going public as a company.

And then the other programs that we had underway within the back of the company. And one of those is a larger launch vehicle called Neutron. And it really, the Electron is a wonderful platform and continues to be a wonderful platform for flying. Many of our customers and quite often we'll fly the first off in a constellation. Or the first of in a kind of spectrum test or equivalent. And it's great for getting those first offs up there, but customers were coming back to us and saying, "Okay, Pete, now we've got a couple of hundred of these, can you get those on orbit for us? And so it became more and more obvious that a larger launch vehicle would be required.

And as we started looking into it, the trick here is really settling on the right size. And I think we did that well with Electron is really defining what we thought the optimum small launch vehicle was, and it's proven to be very successful in flying just about everything that comes on our doorstep. And the same was important for Neutron is really we're as the market niche. And we did two things, we looked back in history and we said, "Okay, what's the average payload lift mass? And if you sum up all the payloads lifted, almost in the history of space flight, you come out with between four and five tons. And then if you look at the most prolifically flown launch vehicle, the Soyuz, it's kind of four to five tons, but an eight ton class launch vehicle.

And then if you project forward with all of the constellations that are being proposed and a bunch of other missions, you kind of end up in the same place once again. So, that kind of really honed us in on building a vehicle in an eight ton class, because between that and Electron you can consume the majority of all the launch that's required. And if you're building an eight ton class launch vehicle then it would be kind of rude not to make sure that you could put a few people on the top. So if you're gonna develop a vehicle from scratch, you may as well develop it with the intention of being able to do human space flight, because the one thing I've learned is never say never, and I don't wanna go back and completely requalifying, completely redesigned a launch vehicle in a later date that's capable of human space flight. So, and then you have it kind of what popped out of all of that work was Neutron, an eight ton vehicle, fully reusable first-stage.

And there'll be a little bit more announcements here in the coming weeks about actually that reusability. And I would say that our Electron reusability program has really been invaluable and informing us all of the kind of the pain of re-entry and the pain of reusability. So I wouldn't have liked to go into Neutron without having that experience under our belt because I think a lot of the decisions and a lot of the assumptions would be very, very different. - Yeah, so we'll get back into the Electron's reusability and some of the stuff you guys are working on there because that's obviously still incredibly exciting, but now, yeah the big thing that it kind of surprises me with Neutron is obviously now with a larger launch vehicle you're finding margins to be able to do propulsive landing. So are you, okay, so I guess I don't even know, is this still going to be a carbon composite body vehicle like Electron, or are you guys looking for another material, I forget.

- Yeah, no, so we have a different material selection from Electron. And once again, that'll be part of when we give a bit of a Neutron update. But yeah, I mean, with small launch vehicles you just don't have the margins to do any kind of propulsive landing.

Larger launch vehicles much more attractive to do that kind of return to base approach. - But one of the things that was most impressive with the way you've proven to survive the wall with Electron is being able to survive re-entry without any propulsive slowdown at all. You're just gritting you're teeth in- - Coming in hot.

- Just coming in hot. So is that something that you're hoping to be able to do with Neutron as well now that you've kind of learned the tricks of the trade there? - Yeah, it's- - Or will neutron require- - Yeah, absolutely. - also slow down? I mean, the advantage with Neutron is having all of that knowledge, and it really is starting from a clean piece of paper and saying, "Okay, let's make the most reusable first stage in history.

And how do we apply all the lessons we've learned? And then the second stage is quite unique because the second stage needs to be a very high performance, but also very low cost upper stage, which generally they're opposite ends of the spectrum to each other. But I would say yes, definitely the lessons learned from Electron being directly applied to Neutron from a reentry standpoint, and Electron was never intended to be a reusable launch vehicle. So we're kind of turning it into one. Whereas this is an incredibly luxurious scenario to sit there with a blank piece of paper and say, "Well, here's all the things we've learned about flying Electron. Here's all the things we've learned about reusability and reentering.

How do we make sure that this isn't just a refurbished double vehicle but a vehicle that actually literally you just roll back out and go again? - I had to push back on that real quick. I guess I maybe never realized that Electron, like I've maybe have heard you say that Electron is never meant to be reusable, but I always thought like, "Oh maybe that's just kind of you holding back," but you genuinely did not plan for reusability with Electron when you were first designing it? - No, that's why I had to eat a hat. I mean, so it was always an intention to make the most manufacturable launch vehicle possible. And we did a really good, great job at that, but even then there's nothing better than not having to build a rocket then not having to build a rocket. So, and I think if we had set out to make Electron a reusable vehicle it would be a different architecture, but there's a whole bunch of set assumptions and constraints you have to make when you you have a small launch vehicle anyway, so yeah. - So propulsive landing, I know you guys are gonna be using RP-1 and liquid oxygen again.

So the same fuels, I assume on both stages for Neutron, is that correct still? - Yeah, I mean, there's places we're looking to innovate and places we're not. Neutron is not about extracting the last second of ISP out of an engine, it's about making sure it's the most robust, reliable platform. Something that you can bump into and not worry about some having to go back and do a whole lot of NDT for damage inspection. Like it's literally trying to build the airliner of the space industry where it truly is a serviceable vehicle rather than landed and do a whole bunch of work to it before you can fly it again. So all of those things are very tightly constrained requirements for us. - Have you announced the, I guess how far are you into the new engine for that vehicle? Are you far enough to know what cycle type it is? How, is it still gonna be 3D printed manufacturing? I know the number of engines may even currently be in flux, but why don't you run me through as much as you can about that, specifically the cycle type? I'm curious if you're sticking with the electric pump fed cycle? - I think you've just about said as much as I would be able to say there, Tim.

So you've covered it all off perfectly. Now I mean, engines are one of those things that are kind of personalities of their own. So it be a great disservice to not give it the level of disclosure at the right time in a proper kind of dissertation. But what I will say is there's areas that we're looking to innovate and areas where we're not, and propulsion is not, as I mentioned before, we're not looking to extract the last ISP, what we're looking for here as an engine that is really good survivability on re-entry, very, very reliable and very large inspection times between running. And I would say that all of our experiences have informed us on these kinds of things. I mean, the electric turbo pump cycle is a wonderful cycle if you just wanna start an engine, stop an engine, start an engine, stop an engine, and do nothing in between.

There is no pre-burners, there's no TEA-TEB, there's nothing, it's all torch ignition. And it's just literally take a Rutherford and light it up, purge it with hot nitrogen and light it up again. And so there's a lot of components on that engine which we've yet to even determine alive because we just keep on taking them out and testing and testing and testing. So that kind of ethos and mentality is pushed across to the Neutron propulsion system. And of course, a lot of the technologies, we've put a 190 engines, 3D printed engines in orbit now, or in space. So we understand that technology very, very well.

And we'll take a lot of learnings and a lot of experience, obviously, as we move forward. But if you're expecting some super crazy engine cycle with some extracting the last kind of point to have a second of ISP from this propulsion system, you'll be disappointed. - And still, no, Aerospikes? - No Aerospikes, no. - I knew the answer to that before I said it. - Maybe I should put it in trade though.

Maybe we should put that in trade, yeah, never know. - Yeah, I mean, come on, you don't wanna eat another hat. So just in case- - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Just in case. There was actually really cool, a really interesting concept for an Aerospike.

This is just nerd talk here on the side, we're going totally off script. It was called , I think it's called the DEAN and it's an expander, a dual expander cycle Aerospike. So it sort of takes the pros or the cons of each system, too much heat on an Aerospike, and then for an expander cycle you need actually a lot of heat to be able to spin your pumps. It kind of takes those two weaknesses and melds them together. I thought that was a very interesting concept. So just in case you're looking at trades- - I do love an expander cycle.

I love an expander cycle, but you're right, you always end up having to do expand the blades or something like that to try and get enough energy, so. I'm a sucker for an expander cycle. - Just maybe do me a favor and look up the DEAN, the dual expander cycle Aerospike engine.

- Yep, it makes perfect sense. - Just for fun. - Yep. - It's cool, 'cause I like that it kind of exploits both of their weaknesses to make a strength, so.

So the other thing that the internet was kind of going nuts over, and I'm sure this is just because it was a simple rendering of Neutron, but we couldn't help but notice that there's four engines on the render and you're doing propulsive landing which would be rather difficult to not only have low enough throttle with so few engines that we know the Falcon 9 has nine, they shut off all but one engine. And even at the one engine's minimum throttle there's still a pretty high thrust to weight ratio. So obviously the fewer the engines, they kind of the lower your number, but also having four you'd have to have two running to not have asymmetrical thrust. Was that just a render or is that actually something that you're considering doing? - Yeah well, there could be something in between those four engines that you can't see as well potentially. But this is the challenge, right? Because ultimately for a launch vehicle in my opinion now you want the least number of engines possible. Because the more number of engines, the more acceptance testing and the qualification and more of everything, like just more manufacturing so the least number of engines is always optimal.

However, when you're talking exactly as you say, propulsive landing, then you have a particular thrust and that you require for that maneuver and that doesn't trade nicely with the small number of engines possible. So yeah, the both those constraints are kind of polar opposite to each other from what you actually want to achieve. So there's some interesting trades you can make there to try and optimize that problem space. - Oh, just throw a Rutherford in the middle there and just use it for landing.

- Oh no, I think rather Rutherford's not enough, it's a bit more than that. - Yeah, you need nine Rutherfords in the middle probably. - Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Just throw a whole electron power pack right in the middle of this thing, no big deal. Will Kerbal design this thing for you, don't worry, the Internet's gonna figure it all out for you guys, I'm quite sure. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, geez. - Speaking of Electron now, you guys, it's been over a year. Wait, when was that? No, not over a year. When did you guys recover? That was when you actually- - December? - went through the wall in 2019 and then in 2020 is when you successfully recovered.

When are you going to go for recovery again? - So this is, recovery is next flight. So the next vehicle up is a recovery mission. So that mission will be similar to the mission we flew in I think it was December where we've got one back but with upgraded heat shield and a bunch of other stuff as well. - So in only four months you were able to crank out a new heat shield design, a new, probably a decent amount of stuff that you learned from your other one, Return to Sender. I mean, that's gotta be, that feels awfully quick.

Can you talk about some of the changes- - Oh, really? that you were actually able to make in that time? - It's never quick enough. - That's face flight world, yeah. - Yeah, yeah, so I mean, really the first one re-entered at the end of last year was, it had no heat shield modifications. And if you understand our approach here is, we're very much using the blunt body of the engines to kind of propagate a shockwave forward and try to ride in the wake of that shockwave to limit the heating. And this is fundamentally a control and heating issue. And that heat shield, we knew it was undersized and undercooked, but there's also a lot of unknowns that we also didn't know.

So instead of kind of obsessively focusing on one element, we thought, "Well, it could be a ton of stuff that we're gonna have to change here. So let's just punch it in and see what we get." And there is nothing like getting back a stage and putting it back in the factory and then cutting it up to understand what you've really got. Just hugely, hugely valuable. There's just, you can put all the instrumentation you want on it, and we've always been very kind of instrument heavy on our vehicles, but there's just nothing, nothing comes close to putting one back in the factory.

So, this flight is, we've really grunted up the heat shield. So, we understand what kind of load that last heat shield saw, and we knew that heat shield would collapse pretty early on into the descent. And of course, once the heat shield collapse you've got a whole lot of batteries and behind the air that they go into thermal runaway and it all gets a bit ugly down there pretty quick.

So the heat shield is really critical in maintaining really good integrity of that whole structure, so. New heat shield design, new materials, and this will be a really important flight for us to see how well that heat shield stands up to it all. There is another iteration on the heat shield as well. So that's, I think that's coming in in mid to late 20s and flight number tower numbers where there's another major iteration to the heat shield. - Yep, and now remind me, the engines you would assume would experience a lot of heating, obviously, because they're kind of at the front of that, when you're coming engine first that's in front of the heat shield and the dance floor or whatever. Normally when an engine's running you have the, you're regeneratively cooling them.

How do they survive without having, or do you pump fluid through there to actively cool them during re-entry, or do you not need to do that? - Yeah, so I mean, on the last mission the engine bells were, or the majority of them were in good kind of condition. And they are designed to be run their end canal. So they're designed to run very hot.

Now, there's a big difference between just getting them back and then getting them back in a condition that you're prepared to fly them again. And so our kind of our approach here with this next flight is to get them back. And then we can assess in a much better way what condition they're really in and start the recall program for those. I mean, one of the things that is most time consuming here is actually the recall of the flight components to be able to certify for the flight again, 'cause it's a completely different set of environments from launch to ascend. So, on the vehicle, on this recovery vehicle, there is actually the same, it's all the locks and (indistinct) press system flew on the previous recovery mission. So we're actually stripping components off these things.

And they were easy components for us to recertify for flight again. So you've got to basically go through that whole stage and recertify everything for a completely different set of load and environmental conditions. And that's actually quite time consuming. - For sure. So for this appointment for your 20th mission here, you're not planning to, you're not using the helicopter yet? You're just splashing down again? - Yeah, yeah, so we wanna get it to to the point where we splash down and we've got the stage, we fetched it out of the water in a condition that we think is usable again for another reflood.

And then we'll start bringing in the helicopter. At the moment it's a lot of logistics to bring in there to try and catch something that it doesn't really matter if it gets wet. That's not, we're not learning anything worrisome or a bit of for taking it for a swim. So it just, it's just a whole bunch of logistics for just no benefit for the development program right now.

- And I figure a helicopter is obviously not free, so you don't wanna use it until it's actually time to use it, you know? That absolutely makes sense. - Yeah, and we've done the drop tests and we're reasonably confident in our ability to catch them. I mean, that's not a super tricky element of what we're trying to do ironically. But actually you're just introducing all of that at this early stages is just not, it doesn't make sense. - So having kind of torn apart the one that you've recovered and seeing inside and everything, how confident are you that this whole thing is going to work out for Electron to be able to actually reuse them? Do you see them be able to be reused over and over? Do you have some kind of, any gauge of, "We might be lucky to get three flights out of them, or 10," or how are you feeling about it I guess? - I'm feeling really good, otherwise we wouldn't be carrying on.

So, but I mean, we punched that thing through in the most horrific way possible, so. And not only did it survive but we're actually reflying components of it on this next mission. And so we're, I think we're all pleasantly surprised with no heat shield improvements and kind of no kind of TPS improvements or anything like that.

That we were able to get it not only back in one piece but we're able to refly components from it. So I think that gave us a massive boost in the viability of the program for sure. - A 100%, that says a lot, obviously.

So the other thing that I've been kind of surprised and waiting to see is the first launch of Electron at Wallops. - Yeah, yep. - Do you have any timeline on that? - Well, we're taking one for the team on this one.

So, what we're really gated by here is the development of the AFTS, or the certification I should say of the NASA AFTS software. So obviously we fly the AFTS out of New Zealand but to go onto a federal range like Wallops there has been no AFTS ever flying out of that launch range. So, we're not just kind of bringing Electron here is, we've had this AFTS collaboration with NASA and DARPA since flight one. Even the very first flights had shadow AFTS systems on board.

So this has been a really long collaboration for us. And what we're trying to do here is actually bring an AFTS system to all launch vehicles and all ranges. All of the launch ranges in America wanna be AFTS, or Autonomous Flight Termination for the viewers, certified by 2030, or even sooner. And there is no industry solution, there's only SpaceX and Rocket Lab that fly AFTS systems in America. So, bringing, and it's a huge barrier, it's a massive, massive barrier. So if someone can develop a box that you can just go and put on your rocket, it just saves a tremendous amount of certification and time.

And so what we're trying to do here is create something that's not just useful for Electron on Wallops, it's useful for any rocket on any federal range. And unfortunately, what that means is that that requires a lot of certification for things that Electron doesn't even have, you know? Electron is not air launched, but there's a whole bunch of air launch certification stuff to get done in there. So, we're really trying to support the whole industry here in making sure that this, the pain that we lived through with flight termination is not a pain that everybody else has to live through in the future. Because I think that's a major gate.

And as you're aware, I mean, our first flight was failed because of a flight termination system, nothing to do with the launch vehicle. So we have a very strong interest in AFTS systems and making sure flight termination is a good element for the industry. But like I say, what that means is that it's just taken a long time to get all that certified for all of those different conditions and different ranges. - Gotcha, so the pad's ready to go though, and you guys are just waiting to finalize all the certifications for it? - Yep. - Automatic flight termination.

- Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's unfortunately there's nothing that we can influence because it's NASA software and NASA certifications. So we can't, it's not like we can do anything there, but I really, I'm certainly hoping that any of the launch providers in the future send me a box of wine or something for the delay we've taken for everybody in the future here. - That's, I didn't realize that's what the reason was. And speaking of Wallops, you're also going to be that's where Neutron's is gonna be flying out- - Correct. - Is that exclusively, are you only planning to put Neutron, fly Neutron from Wallops, or are you planning to fly it in New Zealand as well? - Yeah, so initially we'll fly it from 0A.

I mean, there's a tremendous amount of infrastructure investment that's been created in that pad. And look, we know how to build launch pads very well, but it's always a very time consuming and capital intensive program, but this is of the things that enables us to bring Neutron to market so quickly is the fact that we don't have to build all of that pad infrastructure. And Wallops is a wonderful site. We have great relationships with everybody there. And you can achieve a large amount of trajectories, including synchronous out of Wallops, which is really advantageous. - Yeah, you can do a little dogleg down there and still go, that's, how big of a, that's gotta be a fairly substantial payload penalty though? Especially if you're doing propulsive landing- - It's actually not too bad.

- and a dogleg manoeuvre from Wallops. - Yeah, it's actually not too bad. I mean, it's better than the Cape, so yeah. It's not too bad at all.

- Hah, is that because it doesn't, the Cape you get to fly substantially far east and then do the dogleg, just not have to go as far east, you can go more southernly. - Correct. - Right off the pad? - Yep, yep. - Wow, so you are flying Neutron from Wallops, is Neutron planning to be built manufactured then wholly in the United States, or what's that actually look like? - Yeah, so Neutron has a relatively large diameter. And as we kind of clean cheated the vehicle design, one of the constraints that I always thought was a little bit absurd is, if you look at a lot of launch vehicles, they kind of fall within that 3.7 meter diameter.

And they're 3.7 meters because that's the lowest bridge between California and Florida, and constraining a launch vehicle to a piece of bridge infrastructure didn't make too much sense. So the obvious solution for that is to build it close to the launch site. So we're looking at all the different options around how, one option of course, very, very close to the launch site as in almost on the launch site, through to slightly further away with this larger centers of infrastructure. But that was one constraint that we weren't gonna have was, that's a bad engineering constraint to have from a vehicle design standpoint. - But as far as, and I feel like a new constraint used to, at least its mentality kind of used to exist was, you can't put a rocket factory out at Wallops or Kennedy Space Center directly, just 'cause there wasn't as big of an industry built upon it.

Obviously LA is kind of the home of so much aerospace. That's why traditionally it's been, that's why it's been used by so many aerospace industry people, but what does it actually look like then if you're building out near Wallops or physically on Wallops' ground where are all these people going to be working, living, and I guess what's, are you trying to sell me on the people that are gonna be building Neutron? - So I think you need to think about this a little bit differently, Tim, because this is a reusable launch vehicle. So it's not like we need to be building whole bunch of stage ones every flight. This is a complete different paradigm.

We might only run a fleet of four vehicles and build one a year. So, it's not kind of like this massive manufacturing machine that you may have thought about in the past. Of course the challenges that we need to produce a lot of them early on because no doubt as we're sticking landings, we're gonna have some issues, but once the vehicle's better done, then you don't have a huge manufacturing rate.

Now the upper stage you do, because every relaunched vehicle that will be expendable for now. But I mean, definitely focusing our efforts on that manufacturability. But your point is still a good one, and that's one of the things that is deeply in the trade is that the advantage of building right by the launch site is kind of, the minus for that is, is how do you get the people and infrastructure around you to be able to do that? And then of course, the advantage of building in an area that has a large degree of population density and resources is of course that's not at the launch site.

So, these aren't new problems for us. I mean, we already operate on the launch site of Wallops. And of course the Mahia Peninsula is probably the most remote place you could possibly imagine.

But these are of course competing constraints. - Right, but the good thing is I think if the pandemic kind of taught us anything I think there's a lot of people that are looking for a change in scenery. They're open to not living in a big city. I feel like there's gonna be a lot of young talent and people out there that are looking for a change and maybe something quiet like the ponies of Chincoteague or whatever they are- - Chincoteague. - That might just be charming enough for them to consider packing up and moving out there to develop that.

So, okay, so real quick back to propulsive landing, 'cause you talked about it and now I can't stop thinking about it. You guys, as far as I know don't have any real experience with hovering or propulsive maneuvering, obviously other than in-flight, have you started tinkering around with any kind of models or anything like that, or any kind of hardware that's gonna be teaching you kind of the algorithms and the practice of that, or are you looking to find a partner on something like that? Like Masten or someone like that that has a lot of experience with that? - Well, I think you need to acknowledge that it's broken up into two elements, right? One is control and one is targeting. So, control is control, whether you're doing control on ascent or control on decent, you still have slosh, you still have all the external forces acting on the launch vehicle. And you've got transonic regimes and supersonic regimes and hypersonic regimes that you need to control for. So the control issue, I mean, for us we're not too daunted by that.

I mean, we control a vehicle, Electron. Electron is like a Ferrari. If you want it to go left it'll go left at like 0.1 degree gimbal. So it is a high performance machine.

So as far as control of those kinds of things, the team, we're not too phased. The thing that probably we have less experience with is targeting, because it's one thing to obviously control a descent, but for us the more challenging thing is targeting and sticking something to within sort of 10 meters of where we want it to be. That's actually the greater challenge, and having the right kind of control authority to be able to target quickly is the biggest challenge. I mean, we see that with Electron re-entry right now. I mean, through the maneuvers we're able to get that down to a pretty small impact ellipse for a stage one now, which is fundamental for us to be able to catch with a helicopter as well, as actually we need to be able to target that impact point pretty accurately. But with Neutron it takes it to that one next level.

So, the areas that we're spending most of the time on, like I said it's less about control, but more about making sure that we can target the landing point. - So, and what control systems are you going to have for aerodynamic control, or? - Oh yeah, it's cool. Oh no, this is the one and then when we do the next update, it's cool. You'll like this. - Ooh, I'm really excited. I have just one more question and it's still on Neutron, 'cause I'm thinking about it.

Is there any reason why you'd ever consider expending Neutron, or are you just from day one just building and that this is a reusable launch vehicle and we will only fly it reusable? Or if a customer needs extra payload capacity would you consider expending one, or what are your thoughts on that? - Yeah I mean, it would depend on the ability, the build and the build rate, and an expendable Neutron is gonna be pretty expensive because if we're only looking at building relatively small numbers of stage ones a year, then to go and expend a fleet, I mean, I imagine it would be a similar question, go to your local airliner and ask them if you could fly on a 747 and then just jump out on the way to Miami. And it's gonna be a totally different ticket price, right? It's gonna be a really expensive ticket. So we never say never, learnt that the hard way, but certainly the intention is to be reusable.

But if it was an expendable mission that justified the cost then of course we could look at doing that. - Well no, of course recovering a second stage is substantially more difficult than a first stage. - Yeah, that's- - So is this something that you're not gonna eat a hat over? You're never gonna try and recover a second stage? - I'm never saying never do anything ever again, this is clear, let's be absolutely clear about this.

But that is a totally different, totally different set of challenges on orbital upper stage. And at some point you have to, and you will see with the architecture when we kind of share a little bit more later on. our approach here, because at some point that becomes more costly to try and re-enter and reuse then expendable. When you've got a large propulsion system and huge amount of capital tied up in all of that it's a totally different kind of economic than upper stage with relatively small or inexpensive propulsion system. It's completely different.

You know, if I look at Electron, the vast majority of all the costs and the time of Electron goes into stage one, and the same will be said with Neutron. So our focus right now is to make really affordable expendable upper stages. And coupling that with the architecture of stage one, we think we've got a way to make them incredibly cost effective and let stage one carry the majority of the work.

- I can't wait to hear more about it then, and I understand you're gonna be giving us a little bit of a sneak peek here in the near future for some of those extra details that you're just holding back on us right now, is that correct? - Yeah, I think it would be about to be timely for another update and we can, like I say, we can give a little bit more view into the architecture. And I think that a lot of things will start to really make sense I think for folks at that point. - Well, the aerospace community is really excited. Obviously, this is something that we're all just, I'm so glad that you guys bring us along so well for the ride too and share what you guys are working on so openly, it makes it that much easier for us to all get excited. So I'm sure we'll be tuning in and paying attention very closely to whatever you do in the future.

And yeah, best of luck with flight number 20 for Electron, let's hope it comes back here and looking even better. - Yeah, no, that'll be good. It's hard to believe number 20 as well. That's come around on us pretty quick, but yeah, no, it'll be a good flight.

- Well, reaching the best of luck. And we can't wait to see the pictures as soon as you get it back. I'm sure it'll be awesome.

- Thanks, Tim. All right, thanks, Peter. Have a good one. - Cheers, you too, bye. (gentle music)

2021-04-18 10:22

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