Rocket Lab will unveil a “major development update” on its next-generation Neutron rocket on Thursday. Here’s how to watch it live.


Rocket Lab will lift the veil on its next-gen rocket on Thursday (December 2) and you can watch it live online.

The private launch company will unveil a “major development update” on the new rocket, called Neutron, at an online event at 8:00 a.m. EST (1:00 p.m. GMT). You will be able to watch it on this page, courtesy of Rocket Lab, or directly from the YouTube page.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck unveiled plans for Neutron, a much larger booster than its current Electron rocket for small satellite missions, in March of this year. The existence of Neutron was a surprise announcement for Beck, who has long promised his company would not build a big rocket.

“Earlier this year, I ate my hat,” Beck said in a preview video released Nov. 24 for Thursday’s announcement. He literally meant it. Beck once said he would eat his hat if Rocket Lab built a big rocket and he did (with a blender) when he Neutron unveiled in March.

In picture : Rocket Lab and its Electron booster

Now, it seems, Beck is ready to share Rocket Lab’s progress on the Neutron rocket. “We’ve been busy,” he said at the November 24 premiere.

Neutron is Rocket Lab’s entry into the large boosters market to serve growth market for satellite mega-stellations and its own ambitions of interplanetary missions to Venus and Mars.

As announced in March, Neutron is designed to stand 40 meters tall and launch payloads of up to 8 metric tons (18,000 pounds or 8,000 kilograms) into low Earth orbit, as well as up to 4,400 pounds (2 000 kg) to the Moon. Its first launch is expected to take off in 2024 from the company’s new platform at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Rocket Lab said.

This diagram from Rocket Lab lists key specifications for the next-generation Neutron rocket, a mid-range booster that the company intends to launch in 2024. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

Neutron is also designed to carry just over 3,300 pounds (1,500 kg) to Venus, a target destination for Beck (Rocket Lab wants to launch a small mission to the planet in 2023). The company’s Electron, by comparison, is puny – 60 feet tall and designed for tiny satellites weighing up to 300 kg (660 pounds).

It’s unclear exactly what Rocket Lab is announcing on Thursday, but it could be a refined design for Neutron, a manufacturing update, or a testing schedule.

One thing seems certain: Neutron’s first stage will be reusable (an early illustration showed it with landing legs similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters). Rocket Lab is already pursuing the reuse of its Electron first stage, with plans to rip the booster into the air using parachutes and a helicopter. So Neutron could land on an airstrip like SpaceX’s rockets.

Rocket Lab is also designing Neutron with human spaceflight in mind, in case the company chooses to continue with the commercial crewed flight business. The private manned spaceflight industry flourished in 2021 with the first launches of suborbital space tourism by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, and the first fully civilian flight by SpaceX, which already carries astronauts for NASA.

“So here’s the catch: if you’re going to build an 8 ton class launcher and go to the trouble of doing it, then you might as well make it human certifiable from day one.” Beck told Space.com in an interview in March. And he’s never ruling out manned spaceflight or anything for Rocket Lab again.

“I’m never going to say I’ll never do something again,” Beck said at the time. “I keep all options open from this point on. “

Rocket Lab’s Neutron announcement will come as the company prepares for its next commercial launch, a mission called “A Data With Destiny.” (Rocket Lab is known for its whimsical mission names.)

The “A Data With Destiny” mission will launch two BlackSky Earth observation satellites into orbit from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 (the Virginia site is Launch Complex 2) on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The launch window opens on December 7, less than three weeks after Rocket’s Lab launched on November 18 of another pair of BlackSky satellites, marking the company’s fastest launch to date.

Editor’s Note: Visit this page on Thursday, December 2 to watch Rocket Lab’s Neutron Booster Update.

Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom, to Facebook and on Instagram.


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