Catching a Saturn V First Stage with a Giant Helicopter

On their next Electron rocket launch from New Zealand, “There and Back Again”, scheduled for 2022-04-22, Rocket Lab plan to try to catch the first stage booster in mid-air with a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter with the goal of eventually reusing boosters.

This isn’t the first time such a concept was suggested. In 1965, Hiller Aircraft explored catching expended Saturn V first stages for re-use with an enormous (120 metre rotor span) helicopter with rotor-tip jet engines. This was challenging to say the least, and NASA, beginning to realise how few Saturn V missions would fly, did not pursue it. For details, see Dwayne Day’s 2008 article in The Space Review, “Monster Chopper”.