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The helicopter caught the booster for the first time.

We have never seen something like that before.

The company sent 34 satellites to space with its two-stage Electron rocket, which lifted off from its New Zealand site at 6:49 pm. The time is 2249 GMT. Impressive, but the action in the downward direction was unprecedented.

After sending the satellites on their way, the first stage came back down to Earth under parachutes. After the booster glided toward the Pacific Ocean, a helicopter sidled up close to it and grabbed the parachute line with a hook. If all goes according to plan, the helicopter will take the booster to a recovery ship, which will take the hardware back to terra firma.

During today's launch webcast, Rocket Lab Senior Communications Advisor Murielle Baker said that they successfully caught the Electron booster underneath the parachute.

There are photos of the rocket lab and its booster.

A Rocket Lab Electron vehicle launches on the "There And Back Again" mission on May 2, 2022. The rocket carried 34 satellites toward low Earth orbit.

A Rocket Lab Electron vehicle launches on the "There And Back Again" mission on May 2, 2022. The rocket carried 34 satellites toward low Earth orbit. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

This dramatic action is part of the effort by Rocket Lab to make Electron first stages re-usable, which would reduce costs and increase launch frequencies.

Space fans are already familiar with the reuse of rockets thanks to the work done by the company, like landing the first stages of the Falcon 9 rocket and launching the Falcon Heavy, which has only launched three times to date. falcon 9 first stages land propulsively, using engine burns to steer themselves to soft, vertical touchdown on land or platforms at sea

The first-stage boosters can't carry enough fuel to land the Electron because it's too small. The company decided on the helicopter-snag strategy.

Today is the historic catch of Rocket Lab. The company recovered the first stage after a soft ocean splashdown, and caught dummy boosters with a helicopter during a series of drop tests.

The 26th overall mission for Rocket Lab and Electron was delayed several times as they waited for the weather to clear in the catch zone, which was about 170 miles off the New Zealand coast. The company has a history of giving playful names, and this one was dubbed "There And Back Again".

The 34 satellites that flew on "There And Back Again" were provided by a variety of customers, including Alba Orbital.

All will be put into a sun-synchronous orbit about an hour after liftoff. The number of satellites lofted by Electron will increase once that happens.

If everything goes according to plan, Electron won't be the only launcher in Rocket Lab. The company is working on a larger rocket that will fly for the first time in 2024. The first stage of Neutron is designed to be a propulsive landing, according to representatives from Rocket Lab.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There, a book about the search for alien life. You can follow him on social media. Follow us on social media.