Rocket Lab has introduced a new suborbital testbed launch vehicle that the company says will accelerate the development of hypersonic technology.
Called HASTE (Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron), the rocket is derived from Rocket Lab’s heritage Electron launch vehicle, which has been providing reliable access to orbit since 2018 and has successfully deployed satellites for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office), DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the U.S. Space Force.
HASTE rocket provides reliable, high-cadence flight test opportunities needed to advance hypersonic system technology development. The inaugural launch of the suborbital testbed launch vehicle is scheduled to take place in the first half of 2023 for a confidential customer.
“Rocket Lab has a strong track record of delivering tailored and reliable space capabilities for the civil space and national security communities across launch and space systems, and HASTE is an extension of this,” says Brian Rogers, Senior Director of Global Launch Services.
“Hypersonic and suborbital test capabilities are key priorities for the nation, yet the DoD’s ability to test these systems has been limited. With HASTE, we’ve taken a proven vehicle in Electron and tailored it specifically to deliver highly capable, frequent, and cost-effective hypersonic and suborbital test opportunities from our existing launch site in Virginia.”
HASTE employs the same innovative carbon composite structure and 3D printed Rutherford engines as Electron but has a modified Kick Stage for hypersonic payload deployment, a larger payload capacity of up to 700 kg (1,540 lbs), and options for tailored fairings to accommodate larger payloads.
Rocket Lab has also been selected by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to prototype hypersonic launch capability on HASTE under the agency’s hypersonic and high-cadence testing capabilities (HyCAT) program. For HyCAT, Rocket Lab will explore the integration of scramjet-powered payloads, including the DART AE (Additive Engineering) vehicle developed by Australian company Hypersonix Launch Systems.
Rocket Lab was also selected by Missile Defense Agency Targets and Countermeasures (MDA/TC) to conduct a now-completed study to evaluate a variety of payloads on HASTE, setting the stage for future test flight opportunities. These program awards highlight the versatility of HASTE in providing tailorable trajectories and aerodynamic test regimes.