Rocket Lab’s Neutron undergoes design change

Neutron update shown in new concept art (Left) and old design (right) (Credit Rocket Lab)

New concept art was released on Rocket Lab’s website today, showcasing new design choices for the company’s reusable Neutron rocket.

One of the major changes shown is how the payload fairing operates. In prior concepts, the fairing was comprised of 4 quarters that opened outward to allow second stage and payload separation. The new design shows two halves of the fairing opening.

New fairing opening method on the left vs old fairing opening on the right (Credit Rocket Lab)

Moving from four to two fairings will provide more reliability for the rocket and fewer moving parts.

Another change is a slight design to the forward strakes (fins) that help steer the rocket back to its landing site. Unlike SpaceX, which uses grid fins, the Neutron rocket will use fins that provide more lift and can return to the launch site from further downrange.

The forward fins also appear to have moved further up on the rocket, and the fairing halves size made a bit smaller.

Further down on the rocket, the landing legs are now folded in, similar to how Falcon 9 landing legs are folded, and appear to deploy the same way.

Neutron deploying a stack satellite constellation, very similar to how Starlink satellites are stacked (Credit Rocket Lab)

As of now, it appears the only changes are to the appearance, the Rocket Lab website still shows the same performance. The first stage will be powered by 9 Archimedes engines fueled by liquid methane and liquid oxygen, and 2nd stage powered by a single vacuum-optimized Archimedes engine.

Neutron stands 43 meters tall and is 7 meters in diameter at the base and slopes inwards to the top for a 5-meter diameter fairing. During an update on the rocket in December 2021, Founder and CEO Peter Beck said it would help the rocket make it back through the atmosphere by reducing the thermal load on the rocket.

Disclosure: Richard Angle is not an RKLB shareholder.

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Rocket Lab’s Neutron undergoes design change
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