Updated: Aug 3
Rocket Lab, a leader in small launch vehicles, has successfully completed the inaugural test flight of its new suborbital launch vehicle, the Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE). This groundbreaking achievement marks a significant milestone in the field of hypersonic technology and demonstrates Rocket Lab's commitment to advancing the capabilities of commercial testing at a fraction of the cost.
A Secretive Launch
Operating under a veil of secrecy, Rocket Lab launched the HASTE rocket on June 17 from Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia. The mission was kept confidential, with no prior announcement or webcast. The only indication of the launch came from airspace restrictions and a tweet from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, which disclosed the launch period but informed the public that the facility's visitor center would be closed.
The first suborbital version of Electron, called HASTE, lifted off June 17 from Wallops Island, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Patrick Black
Rocket Lab's CEO, Peter Beck, announced the success of the mission on Twitter, stating, "100% mission success from tonight's launch. A perfect flight of the nation's newest hypersonic test platform HASTE."
The Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE)
HASTE is a suborbital launch vehicle derived from Rocket Lab's Electron rocket, which is already renowned as the most frequently launched commercial small launch vehicle in the world. Built with the same innovative carbon composite structure and 3D printed Rutherford engines, HASTE offers enhanced capabilities for hypersonic suborbital payload deployment.
With a modified third stage, HASTE can be precisely controlled to adjust flight trajectories and payload release conditions according to the specific requirements of client missions. This flexibility allows for tailored testing and research in various fields, including air-breathing, ballistic re-entry, boost-glide, and space-based applications.
The Advantages of HASTE
One of the key advantages of HASTE is its increased payload capacity. The launch system has the capability to haul up to 1540 pounds (700 kilograms) to orbit, accommodating a wide range of payloads. Rocket Lab's CEO, Peter Beck, emphasized the potential for even larger payloads, stating, "The more vehicles we put through the factory, the cheaper they get."
With this launch Rocket Lab demonstrated rapid launch capability by launching next mission just three weeks after previous launch. (Image Credit: Rocket Lab)
By leveraging the cost efficiencies gained through economies of scale, Rocket Lab aims to provide affordable access to hypersonic testing for a diverse range of customers, including the U.S. defense and intelligence community. HASTE, operating under Rocket Lab National Security (RLNS), a subsidiary dedicated to serving these sectors, delivers vital capabilities for advancing the nation's hypersonic technology development.
Collaboration for Hypersonic Testing
The successful launch of HASTE demonstrates the collaborative efforts between government and industry partners in revolutionizing hypersonic testing. Brian Rogers, Senior Director of Global Launch Services, highlighted the importance of this mission, stating, "HASTE enables the frequent, affordable flight testing needed to advance the nation's hypersonic technology development."
Rocket Lab expresses gratitude to its mission partners for their trust in this inaugural mission and looks forward to continued collaboration in the future. This launch sets the stage for a new era of hypersonic test launch capability, propelling the field of hypersonic technology to new heights.
Future Launches and Expectations
Rocket Lab projects a total of 15 Electron launches in 2023, including both orbital and HASTE missions. The company's commitment to continuous innovation and affordable access to space positions Rocket Lab as a leader in the small launch industry.
The successful launch of HASTE paves the way for further advancements in hypersonic technology testing and research. As demand for hypersonics testing and targets grows, Rocket Lab is ready to meet the needs of the Defense Department and other customers with its cost-effective, high-frequency, and accurate launch capabilities.
With HASTE as a testament to Rocket Lab's engineering expertise and commitment to pushing boundaries, the company continues to shape the future of space exploration and technology development.
Rocket Lab's successful launch of the Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE) marks a significant milestone in the field of hypersonic technology. This secretive mission demonstrates Rocket Lab's commitment to advancing hypersonic testing capabilities while maintaining cost-effectiveness and flexibility.
HASTE offers increased payload capacity and tailored testing capabilities, enabling precise control over flight trajectories and payload release conditions. With Rocket Lab's focus on collaboration and partnerships, the company is poised to continue leading the small launch industry and meet the growing demand for hypersonics testing.
As Rocket Lab looks ahead to future launches and further advancements, the successful inaugural flight of HASTE sets the stage for a new era of hypersonic test launch capability, propelling the field of hypersonic technology forward.