Their success at what they do has increased demand for their vehicles and they realized that if they don't throw the boosters away after one launch, they don't need to build as many.
Scaling production is not a trivial thing. We need to quadruple production over the next couple of years. You can take any product on this planet—a chair or a consumer product—and say I want a 4x production of that product. And that's no trivial thing to do. When you have a supply chain as they have in the aerospace industry, which is really quite fragile, and you're not just asking yourself to scale four times—you're asking your suppliers to scale four times. Take the engine, for example: even if we wanted to double engine production and order a bunch more printers, those printers are six- or 12-month lead time. Really, we need to be all in. We're crazy-expanding our factories and hiring. But this is an additional step we need to take to increase launch opportunities.The approach they've taken to recovering the boosters has never been done on a commercial scale. They plan to catch the booster falling to Earth with a helicopter.
While I realize that this is a computer-generated video, I didn't notice the helicopter jerk downward when it suddenly supports that extra weight. "For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction" isn't just good for CGI, it's the law. Nor did I notice the booster swinging like a pendulum and pulling the helicopter around as it does so, which I think is unavoidable. In any case, this ought to be entertaining to watch. Peter Beck, again:
The idea of mid-air capture has a long history, right back to the Corona missions in the 1950s and 1960s. That's not new. And it's funny, if you look at the helicopter capture, most people think that's the hardest thing to do. But that's really not hard at all. That's the bit I'm least worried about being successful. It's getting it through the atmosphere and down to a sensible speed that is really where the challenge lies. That's where a lot of the innovation is going to come from in this program. We have some very unique aerodynamic decelerators that we'll be employing to control the reentry but also to scrub the velocity.The article is worth a read. Rocket Lab sounds like they've been instrumenting boosters for a while now and trying to understand every detail of what they're going through - Beck mentions "thousands of channels of data" coming down from every launch. When asked about when they plan their first recovery, he talks about the reality of preferring to do several tests, each a bit more intricate than the last, rather than trying a complete recovery right away.
Yeah, so the next flight on the pad here is an important one [Flight 8, due to launch later this month (Note: from New Zealand - SiG)]. We have some critical flight instrumentation on that. Flight 10 is a block upgrade, with some visible changes to the booster. Really, after flight 10, there will be new things we're trying on every flight. But look, this is a very, very difficult thing to do, and I'm reluctant to define a flight number that we're going to do a full recovery on. It's a very methodical and iterative approach we're taking here.Asked how many times they'd like to reuse boosters, Beck says, "If we could reuse it once we've effectively doubled production. Once would be wonderful. Anything more would be really fantastic."