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Paradox is having a big week. Not only did they release Imperator: Rome, we also got news about two upcoming expansions for Surviving Mars and BattleTech respectively, plus the first-ever public peek at Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 footage.
This is gaming news for April 22 to 26.Mortal combat
Street Fighter 5 is apparently hoping to steal some thunder from Mortal Kombat 11, kicking off a two-week free trial that will run through May 5. You’ll be able to play with 20 characters across a variety of modes, and the Arcade Edition will be 50 percent off for the duration.
Now, whether you actually want to play Street Fighter 5? That’s debatable. But if you’ve been on the fence, this is your best chance to give it a try, no commitment.Mars
First up for Paradox’s Great Big Week of Trailers is Surviving Mars‘s lush Green Planet expansion, which we now know will release May 16. If you’re curious about terraforming, there’s also a two-part feature breakdown to pore over.Mechs
Then there’s mech-murdering strategy game BattleTech, which will get a new Urban Warfare expansion on June 4. It’s pretty self-explanatory, though I am psyched for the ability to punch through entire buildings on my way to the objective.…And murders Back to Baldur’s Gate? (No.)
For years Wizards of the Coast stuck to outsourcing its video game adaptations, but it seems like that’s changing. First Magic: The Gathering Arena was developed in-house, and then this week Wizards announced it’s opening a new studio in Austin, run by ex-BioWare vet James Ohlen. Ohlen’s stint at BioWare stretches all the way back to Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, which gave me momentary hope he’d be working on something similar for Wizards.Oddball Overwatch
It’s been a while since Overwatch excited me, but this week’s news piqued my interest. Blizzard announced “The Workshop,” a new offshoot of the custom game tools that lets players manipulate the game’s underlying scripting—for like, really custom games. It’s not as powerful as, say, Warcraft 3‘s mod tools, which allowed you to create new maps or modify existing art assets, but you can tweak environment and (more importantly) hero behavior for some pretty wild results—including this neat “Top-Down Overwatch” mod by Reddit user MrMisquito.Treasure Island Anthem’s arrested development
On the other end of the live-service spectrum is Anthem. Released in February, BioWare finally managed this week to make the inventory accessible during missions, and without a load screen—a significant step, for sure.
But there’s a downside: Most of the stuff that was supposed to be added in April and May, including guild support, the “Mastery System,” leaderboards, weekly stronghold challenges, and the endgame Cataclysm event, is now delayed until some unknown future date. Best of luck to BioWare as they continue to hammer this into shape. Hopefully the players are still around when it gets there.Working for fortnights
But hey, hopefully the slow pace of Anthem updates means BioWare’s made some changes to the crunch culture over there. Why do I say that? Well, because Epic came under fire this week for its labor practices around Fortnite. Polygon’s got the story, which details herculean amounts of crunch stretching back to before Fortnite’s release, with employees claiming 70 and even 100-hour weeks for months on end. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, which in this case means if the pace of updates seems unrealistically fast—and Fortnite’s has for a while—then someone’s probably suffering for it.
Just brutal, and hopefully bringing these practices to light forces a change. Or, you know.Epic exclusive?
In other Epic news, Tim Sweeney made a pretty bold claim on Twitter this week. Again addressing the community’s anger over Epic Games Store exclusives, Sweeney wrote:
“If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.”
And hey, maybe he’s telling the truth! On the other hand, I doubt Sweeney thinks there’s much chance of Valve adopting an 88% revenue split anytime soon. Thus I’d expect the exclusives battle to continue for the foreseeable future.Battle for At-last Just like Heaven
I was quite fond of Heaven’s Vault last week, except for one aspect: Sailing. In between translating a lost language and exploring ruins, there are segments where you simply fly through mostly empty space and zone out. Luckily there’s now, only a week later, a more extensive fast travel system. Not only can you return quickly to any previously discovered location, but it will also teleport you as close as it can to any unknown locations, after which you’ll take control for the last leg of the journey. Much better.Falling for Fallout
Closing out this week, a Twitter thread asked people to share interesting handouts and props they’ve witnessed in tabletop role-playing campaigns. There are a lot of great photos and stories in the thread, but chief among them is Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer, who showed off a Fallout-themed tabletop campaign run by the one-and-only Chris Avellone, complete with a hefty binder that was “kept up-to-date with campaign info.” Pretty incredible, and if only we could all have such great DMs.
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When the AI grows sentient and Skynet becomes a reality, at least we’ll have been prepared by the nonstop onslaught of Terminator tie-ins this year—not least of which is the custom Xbox One X that Microsoft revealed this week. Look upon its eye and despair, for there is a new red ring of death to contend with.
This is gaming news for October 28 to November 1.Halloween hangover
Halloween’s over, which for me means getting ready for Thanksgiving, and for department stores means it’s time to bust out Christmas ornaments. But before we get too far into the holidays, Epic is still celebrating the spookiest season with a pair of giveaways this week. Both Soma and Costume Quest are modern classics, and you owe it to yourself to grab both even if you’re burned out from a month-long horror binge.
Next week is Nuclear Throne and Ruiner, which doesn’t sound very Thanksgiving-y to me. Then again, I can’t think of any Thanksgiving games off the top of my head. An underserved market, maybe.Beta bonanza
If you’re okay with less-finished fun, there are also multiple betas running this weekend. Warcraft III: Reforged is running a multiplayer beta, with rolling waves of invites going out first to those who preorder the “Spoils of War” edition and later to anyone who pre-orders period.
And Halo: Reach enters its third round of testing this week. You’ll need to sign up as a “ Halo Insider” and then hope for an invite, but those selected will get to test two missions (“Noble Actual” and “Winter Contingency”) and play a handful of multiplayer maps. You can also check out the minimum specs for running Reach in 2023. As you’d expect, they’re pretty damn low. A GTX 770 will get you to 4K, albeit barely, while a GTX 560 Ti is listed as the minimum for 1080p play.A Hideo Kojima Game Redder and Deader
Speaking of PC ports, Red Dead Redemption II finally hits PC next week. I’m sure you can imagine the improvements for yourself, all those glorious horse testicles growing and shrinking at 4K resolution. But if you want to take a peek ahead of time, Rockstar’s put out a very pretty PC launch trailer to entice you into buying a (second) copy.Sleeker Steam
Go ahead, admire it. It’s been a long time coming.Eggs
Wishlists are also coming soon, per Epic’s announcement. And while Epic still seems against user reviews, it did reveal a partnership with OpenCritic to surface review scores on the storefront. You can find more details here.Avengers
Square’s Avengers game is due out May 15 and I feel like we’ve barely seen it still. Or rather, we’ve seen the same section over and over, the prologue battle on the Golden Gate Bridge. For a second I feared this latest trailer would recap that for the umpteenth time, but it does dive deeper into the loot system and such in the back half. Still not much given the looming release date, but at least it’s something.Battlefield…6?
Battlefield’s been on an every-other-year schedule for a while now, but don’t expect Battlefield VI to come knocking anytime soon. EA’s Andrew Wilson got out there in an investor’s call this week and said we won’t see the next Battlefield until sometime in 2023 or maybe even 2023. That’s a three- or maybe even four-year gap between releases, which hopefully allows DICE to make more substantial changes—and maybe even a longer campaign? I can dream.Breaking point The horror
Okay, one last bit of Halloween-adjacent news: Red Barrels, developer of Outlast, used the day to tease its next project. All we got was one image, two hands clasped together and the words “Where freedom ends.” Is it Outlast 3? Maybe. I promise, you know just as much as I do. We’ll keep an eye out for more, because as much as I felt disappointed by Outlast 2, I’d still love to see Red Barrels recapture the oppressiveness of the original.Terminated
Forget the next Xbox. All I want is the ridiculous Terminator-themed Xbox that Microsoft revealed this week. Usually these tie-ins are bland affairs, a color-swap and maybe an alternate logo to promote some game or another. The Terminator: Dark Fate Xbox is a full custom mold though, with a melty-faced and red-eyed robot sticking out from the top. It is so ugly and so dumb and I’d love to put one in my house—but they only made one, and you have to win it in a contest. Damn them.
We’ll finish out this week the only way we could possibly finish out this week: with the debut trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher. Does it look better than I first expected? Slightly. Is bathtub-Geralt a neat nod to fans? Definitely. But does it look good? I’m…still not sold. At times it looks like the Game of Thrones spiritual successor it so desperately wants to be. Other points, it looks like The Witcher by way of The CW.
Looking for something to play this weekend and determined not to crack open your wallet? The best sports game ever made a.k.a. Rocket League is free-to-play through Steam until Sunday morning Pacific time. Head here to install it or buy the game for a 30 percent discount.
That news, plus Rocket League is free for the weekend, Oculus shuts down its acclaimed Story Studio team, Valve opens up about receiving 75,000 support requests a day, Remedy confirms “Project 7,” The International 2’s funding campaign kicks off, Darksiders III comes back from the dead, and more.
The Witcher 3 in 8K. Eight. K. I can’t even believe it. Not too long ago 4K was just a glimmer on the horizon, then I laughed when people started talking about 5K. Now we’re at 8K? What happened? Where did 6K and 7K even go? And when can we stop talking in Ks?
Provided you don’t bear a grudge against Uplay, you can also try out The Division for free through Sunday. It doesn’t look like the DLC is included, but the somewhat decent story mode is available to burn through if you’d like.Fury
When THQ died I thought this day would never come, but five years later here we are: Darksiders III exists, and will release in 2023. The game stars whip-wielding Fury, third horseman horselady of the apocalypse, and is made by Gunfire Games, comprised of multiple ex-Vigil employees. IGN has the details through its “IGN First” program, and you can check out the first trailer below.8K Geralt
What do you do with four of Nvidia’s monstrous Titan Xp graphics cards? Apparently you use them to churn out The Witcher 3 on Ultra at a stupid-high 8K resolution. You can see for yourself with this video from YouTuber Thirty IR, though the effect will no doubt be lost on your probably-not-8K monitor. (Via Kotaku )Prepare to diiiiine 3C3C1D119440927
Speaking of over-the-top Japanese RPGs, Nier: Automata’s first DLC released this week, and it’s titled (wait for it) “3C3C1D119440927.” Seriously. There’s a launch trailer below, but all you really need to know is that the CEO of Square Enix Yosuke Matsuda is a boss character and you have to fight him.Mute-a-Laylee
Maybe I’m just less susceptible than other people, but I didn’t find the gibberish voices in Yooka-Laylee particularly annoying. If it drives you up a wall though, good news: An upcoming patch will allow you to “skip dialogue faster, bypass cutscenes, or reduce those pesky gibberish voices,” according to Playtonic. Camera tweaks are also incoming.Give me the cure The Long Development
It’s something of a joke that Early Access survival games will never actually be finished, but The Long Dark is looking to prove critics and naysayers wrong later this year. That’s right, The Long Dark is actually going to add in its much-touted story mode starting with two episodes in August of this year and concluding with three more sometime in 2023, hitting 1.0 “full release” during that same stint.
Your move, DayZ.Outside Oculus
Oculus is shutting down Oculus Story Studio, its internal dev team that made critically-acclaimed VR short films Henry, Lost, and Dear Angelica. The plan, according to Oculus’s Jason Rubin, is to “support more external production,” but it’s a damn shame—Story Studio made some of the highest-quality VR content, went to Sundance multiple times, and even developed Oculus’s amazing Quill art tool as an offshoot of Dear Angelica production.
Oculus also announced (via VentureBeat) that it won’t have a booth at E3 this year. Again, it’s hard to tell if it’s skipping E3 because it feels there’s no point (as with EA and Wargaming) or if it’s indicative of more serious problems at the company. Time will tell, I guess.International, again
Dota 2 is winding up for The International 2023, its annual tournament, and Valve’s officially started selling the Battle Pass for this year’s iteration—the proceeds of which go to fund The International’s prize pool. Less than day in and the prize pool already sits (as of writing) at $2.5 million.
For the record: $20.7 million is the target to beat from last year’s prize.
“This all-new campaign calls upon you to party up with three friends or queue-met allies to battle through a diverse landscape of loathsome monsters, cunning traps, and other lethal terrors. With the fate of Dark Reef and the safety of the free seas hanging by a fish-gut thread, you’ll need to work together if you’re to find any hope for survival.”Take a breath
More Valve news as we close out the week. If you’ve ever submitted a support request to Valve and been annoyed you received a canned reply, Valve wants you to take a breath and consider this: Apparently the company receives 75 thousand support requests every single day, mostly related to refunds.
If you want to dig into the numbers, Valve’s given support requests their own stats page. I still think Valve’s support should be better, given the importance of Steam, but oof—75 thousand requests a day sure does sound like a ton.Half-Left 3
And one more Valve tidbit: Half-Life 2/Portal/Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek departed Valve this week, making him the third high-profile writer to leave the company in the last year or so (along with Erik Wolpaw and Marc Laidlaw). Best of luck to him, and best of luck to Valve. Seems like writers must be in short supply over there at this point.
For decades it was a thing of science fiction. Books and movies have long depicted their protagonists speaking commands to inanimate objects and having orders carried out instantly. I think it’s safe to say that most everyone, including myself, used to daydream of being able to control lights simply by giving a voice command from anywhere in the room, no longer having to get up and walk over to flip a light switch on or off.
Then Philips introduced their Hue lightbulbs and companion API, moving traditional light switches a step closer to obsoleteness by introducing the ability to turn lights on and off with a smartphone app, bringing us one step closer to making voice controlled lights a reality. When the second generation Hue bridge was introduced with HomeKit support, Siri gained the ability to control Hue peripherals, creating the ultimate ease-of-use scenario.
There’s almost a magical property surrounding Philips Hue lights. A room can be lit or darkened by a spoken word, its walls repainted in an instant, or the atmosphere changed to anything from a tropical sunset to an Arctic aurora. There’s really no limit to what one can do with a few Hue lights and some creative inspiration.
The one drawback to Philips Hue since its launch, however, has been the mobile app. While it gets the job done on a basic level, it’s been an eyesore and simply painful to use, which is why many users have turned to third party options such as Huemote for managing their lights.
That all changes with the new Philips Hue app, a complete redesign that has kept me from even opening a third-party Hue app for the past few months. This has been a much-needed update for quite a while now, but even with its late arrival, the app is well worth considering for usage on a day-to-day basis.
The new Hue app introduces several new features, including the ability to assign lights to their respective rooms, an organizing of alarms and timers into routines, and new Siri commands for HomeKit-enabled bridges. Rooms and new Siri commands are what make having Hue across the house and sharing its functionality with family members so much better. Additionally, the interface throughout the app has been completely redone, and the new UI is most definitely an improvement.Rooms
The first thing you’ll see after launching the app post-setup is no longer a Home screen-like collection of scenes that by default affect all your lights when activated. Instead, the Rooms screen lists all the rooms you’ve setup, with a brightness slider and an on/off toggle for each room, as well as a master switch at the top to toggle all lights connected to the Hue bridge.
When configuring rooms, users can select which lights belong to a room, and when turning a room on or off, changing its color, or setting a scene, only the lights in the room will be affected. This makes a world of difference when managing lights across the house, particularly with multiple Hue users in a house, as each individual can control the lights in their respective room without accidentally disturbing someone else by activating a scene that changes all the lights in the house, for example.
Tapping on a room from the main screen brings up two tabs, the first of which being for controlling individual lights. Here are listed all the lights assigned to the selected room, each with its own on/off switch and brightness slider, and selecting any of these opens the Hue color pickers for choosing the exact color or shade of white you want. Also available under this screen are the four most-used recipes, which, when tapped, only apply to the selected light. Switching to the second tab displays all the scenes in the app, and choosing one of these applies it to all the bulbs in the room.
For my personal use, the ability to group lights into rooms makes managing the lights in my part of the house far easier than in the previous Hue app, and as more and more houses gain Hue lights and as more and more lights fill each house, this type of light management is absolutely vital. The addition of rooms not only allows but encourages multi-room and multi-person setups in homes, and that’s exactly what Philips wants, and needs, for Hue to thrive.Routines
The previous of the Philips Hue mobile app had alarms and timers, which would activate a scene at a certain time or after a certain time. The redesign categorizes these as “routines”, which also includes the actions that’ll be carried out when you leave or arrive at the house.
By granting the app location permissions, it can turn off the lights in a certain room or all the lights in the house automatically when you leave the house – or turn on select lights to discourage burglars by giving the appearance that someone is home. Alternatively, it can also greet its owner by turning on the lights as he or she arrives home.
Wake up routines can also be set for using Philips Hue to slowly fade up the lights to simulate a sunrise each morning in order to provide a more gentle rousing than most alarms would give, and users can set multiple wakeup routines for certain days or groups of days of the week, meaning a different routine can be set for the weekend than work days. This is similar in concept to Sleep Cycle, an app that tracks your sleeping patterns through movement or sounds and wakes you up when you’re sleeping the lightest. The app can also tie into the Philips Hue API to use a “sunrise” to wake its users more gently.
Finally, users can configure additional routines which have verbatim functionality as wake up routines, but are placed under a different category, I assume for organization’s sake. These can be used to trigger a scene or to turn the lights off at any specified time of any day or days the users desires, such as an evening “lights out” or automatically changing the lights’ color when it’s time to leave in the morning.
It’s worth noting that timers are no longer present in the updated app, as their functionality is likely assumed to be covered by the alarm-style routines that are available in the app. Still, some users who found themselves setting timers often may be frustrated by this change, as it was more convenient to set the lights to turn off after 30 minutes than to calculate the time 30 minutes from when you’re setting the alarm. I personally never used timers, but this change could be an inconvenience for some.Siri Commands
Because lights can now be divided into rooms, Siri can control the lights on a per-room basis when given commands such as “Turn off the lights in the bedroom” or “Set the Concentrate scene in my study”. Pair this with untethered Hey Siri on newer iPhones and your house is practically a sci-fi movie set.User Interface
Along with feature upgrades, the app has experienced a complete overhaul in terms of design language and general aesthetics. Gone is the Home screen-like grid of scenes, which is replaced by a more aesthetically pleasing solution. Throughout the app, everything from details such as the on/off switches and icons to the general layout of the app have been completely redone, and this new design language is a wonderful improvement.
Having Philips Hue in the house can be quite an incredible experience, particularly with the second generation bridge. Now when heading out of the house, instead of going throughout the house and flipping off all the light switches, I can just raise my wrist and say “Hey Siri, turn off the lights” and my Apple Watch will proceed to shut off all the lights in the house.
The level of convenience and luxury provided to iOS users through the HomeKit-enabled Hue bridge is unparalleled, and Philips has done an excellent job integrating this technology into the home. This new app is just the icing on the cake, with its ability to assign lights to rooms so Siri can turn off only the lights in a specific room or so the scenes displayed in the Notification Center widget will only change the lights in a certain part of the house.
The second generation Philips Hue app is available as a free download on the App Store and will work with both first and second generation Hue bridges. If you don’t yet have any Philips Hue hardware, you can begin your collection with the Philips Hue Starter Pack for $199.99, which comes with the Hue bridge and three white and color ambiance bulbs capable of producing over 16 million colors and every shade of white, from an energizing blue tint to a relaxing yellow glow.
Update: The current version of Philips Hue gen 2 does not package an Apple Watch app, but support is said to come in the future, although the timeline for this update is unclear.
The Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador has some of the most amazing, terrifying eruptions in the world. This one, from 2006, shows molten lava streaming down the sides of the mountain while ash spews into the night sky. More info here
From the amazing Tungurahua volcano spewing molten rock and ash to a stunning concept motorcycle to a cargo ship smashing into the rocky beach of Wales, this week’s roundup of the most amazing science and tech images is an excellent one (though we couldn’t find any science-and-Passover imagery, to our surprise). And the weekend itself is shaping up to be excellent! So go enjoy it! Wait, no, look through this gallery first. Then enjoy it!
Robotic String Hand
This robotic hand is actually operated with extremely strong polymer strings, attached to actuators. Given how much our own muscles are like strings, it’s surprising that we haven’t seen anything quite like this before. Read more here.
The Quietest Room on Earth
This room, the “anechoic chamber” at Orfield Laboratories, is 99.99 percent sound absorbent, and holds the Guinness World Record for quietest room on the planet. Apparently it’s so quiet it drives you insane–the only sounds you hear emanate from your own body, fluids gurgling and heart pumping and joints cracking–and nobody has ever been able to stand it for more than 45 minutes. Read more here.
Earlier this week, the cargo ship MV Carrier crashed into rocks near a jetty in Llanddulas, Wales.
The Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador has some of the most amazing, terrifying eruptions in the world. This one, from 2006, shows molten lava streaming down the sides of the mountain while ash spews into the night sky. More info here.
Technosensual is an exhibit at quartier21, in Vienna–a chance for designers to show off high-tech fashions, equipped with LED lights, smoke machines, transforming fabrics, and more. Read more here.
Why is Vienna so cool all of a sudden? Here’s another from the Big V (that is not a nickname): a new world record for the fastest 3-D printed nano-objects has been set by the Vienna University of Technology. Researchers there printed a 0.285mm model of a Formula 1 racing car in just over four minutes. Read more here.
We just saw a concept video of Google’s crazy augmented-reality glasses in action this week. Here’s what they look like on a human! For more examples of what they’d look like on Joe Biden, Kreayshawn, or a very fat cat, check out Buzzfeed FWD.
On April Fool’s Day in 1940, my hometown science museum, the venerable and excellent Franklin Institute, declared the world was ending. It was a promo for their planetarium’s show about stars exploding. Still, while the Franklin Institute claimed they thought everyone would understand it was a joke, the citizens of Philadelphia sort of…didn’t get it. Read more here.
Frog, a company that designed not only the original Frog FZ Rana, which was so influential it’s currently shown in the SFMOMA, but also the cases for Macintosh computers in the early ’80s, has a new motorcycle concept. We’ll admit to not understanding quite how it would, like, work–not sure what the benefit is to the big hole in the middle of the body, nor are we sure where the actual power to turn the wheels comes from. But it sure looks pretty! Read more at FastCoDesign.
Late in the morning of May 3, a rocket blasted off into the heavens from a launchpad in New Zealand. Minutes later, as its second stage continued upwards towards orbit, the first stage of the rocket descended by parachute into the waiting hook from a recovery helicopter. The hook snagged the parachute line, where it was held—and then released. The launch, both a successful orbital delivery and useful feature test for rocket-maker Rocket Lab, highlights a future possible form of recoverable rocket launches.
At the heart of Tuesday’s launch was the novel recovery attempt. Getting to orbit is expensive work, and the ability to recover and reuse rocket components can lower the costs of each launch. Recovery in this instance was attempted by a Sikorsky helicopter.
“At 6,500 ft, Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter rendezvoused with the returning stage and used a hook on a long line to capture the parachute line,” Rocket Lab said in a release. “After the catch, the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than previously experienced in testing and offloaded the stage for a successful splashdown.”
For this specific launch, the catch ended up being more of a catch-and-release, but that attempt still went an important way to demonstrating the viability of the option. Knowing that the release worked—that the helicopter crew was able to snag the rocket and then determine they needed to jettison the booster—is a key part of proving viability. A method that involves helicopters but jeopardizes them pairs reusability with risk to the human crew.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck noted that it’s a tricky dynamic. “Once we receive confirmation that we’re under a good chute, we’ve got about 10 minutes to get on station and rendezvous with the stage,” he said, on a media call, “and not only rendezvous with the stage in a position in space but also in altitude and a descending altitude, a kind of three-dimensional problem if you will.”
[Related: SpaceX’s first paying ISS passengers say they’re not ‘space tourists’]
This launch, said Rocket Lab in the release, “is the first time a helicopter catch attempt was introduced to recovery operations and today’s mission will inform future helicopter captures.”
In addition to the helicopter snag, the rocket booster was slowed by its initial drogue parachute, as well as by a large main parachute. The drogue parachute stabilized and slowed the booster as it fell, with the main parachute deployed much closer to impact, working as a harder brake. Both parachutes were deployed by the time of the helicopter intercept.
“Trailing behind the main chute is the little drogue chute with a 150-foot line and there’s a 150-line hanging off the helicopter with the capture mechanism,” said Beck. “It’s kind of like Ghostbusters in a way, you want those two streams to cross, those streams being the helicopter long line and the line between the main chute and the drogue chute—those cross and grapple and capture, and then the helicopter slowly decreases the velocity of its descent.”
In this instance, after recovery from the ocean, the rocket booster stage was collected and sent back to where the company produced it for future analysis.
“It’s an incredible display of logistics and moving pieces. To even get something that’s entering from space at seven times the speed of sound on a ballistic arc to rendezvous with a helicopter was a huge achievement,” said Beck. “We got an image of it on a boat coming home. Little bit wetter than we hoped but incredibly successful.”
The company has a long history of adapting from imperfect initial results. When Rocket Lab sent its first Electron rocket up in 2023, the rocket did not quite make it into orbit as planned.
Since then, Rocket Lab claims it has had 26 Electron rocket missions, deploying a total of 146 satellites. Of those, 34 were deployed with the latest launch, and those include satellites that Rocket Lab says are “designed to monitor light pollution, demonstrate space junk removal technologies, improve power restraints in small satellites, validate technology for sustainable satellite systems that can avoid collisions with untrackable space objects, enable internet from space, and build upon a maritime surveillance constellation.”
So why doesn’t Electron just do it the same way SpaceX does? According to CNN, “[t]he company has said Electron is not large enough to carry the fuel supply needed for an upright landing, and a saltwater ocean landing can cause corrosion and physical damage.”
[Related: Jeff Bezos is suing NASA. Here’s why.]
Reusing boosters saves on materials cost, and it also saves on manufacturing time. Provided the rocket is not too badly damaged from seawater, refurbishing is a faster turnaround to readiness than starting from scratch.
If the helicopter hook technique can succeed in the future, a guided and slowed descent shortens that turnaround time even further, making it increasingly likely the company will be able to field as many launches as it schedules and population orbit with more and more satellites.
In the video of the capture attempt, filmed from a camera mounted on the helicopter, the hook can be seen dangling in the air below, a yellow tether suspended in air. The booster, parachute deployed, drifts into the frame. The sky below orbit is vast, full of room for trial and error. The successful snag is the story Rocket Lab is actively telling about the test, but the release of the cord to save the helicopter proves the concept can be attempted again, now with pilots who know what a catch and release feels like.
Watch the recovery attempt below:
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