Rocket Lab announced on March 1 that it is in the process of developing a new launch vehicle that is designed to deliver up to 8,000 kilograms to low Earth orbit. The maiden launch of the new launch vehicle is slated for 2024.
The 40-meter tall Neutron is a two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle that is to initially be marketed to companies launching mega-constellations like Amazon and OneWeb. However, the company also envisions the rocket being used for International Space Station resupply missions and even human spaceflight missions.
Neutron is significantly larger than the 18-meter Electron, the company’s smallsat launcher, but smaller than the industry’s larger launch vehicles. In a press release, Rocket Lab said the size of the vehicle reflects feedback it has received from its customers.
“We’ve listened to our customers and the message is clear – biggest doesn’t always mean best when it comes to constellation deployment,” said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. “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.”
In addition to leveraging technology developed for Electron to offer “highly disruptive” launch costs, Rocket Lab also plans to propulsive land Neutron first-stage boosters on an ocean platform, much like the SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage.
Rocket Lab has selected the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia for Neutron launches. The company says that it plans to make use of the existing launch pad and integration infrastructure to further reduce costs.