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  • Satellite Evolution

Rocket Lab introduces suborbital testbed rocket, selected for hypersonic test flights

Rocket Lab USA, Inc, a leading launch and space systems company, today formally introduced the HASTE rocket (Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron), a suborbital testbed launch vehicle derived from Rocket Lab’s heritage Electron rocket. HASTE provides reliable, high-cadence flight test opportunities needed to advance hypersonic system technology development, with the inaugural launch 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 – 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. Importantly, HASTE is not the promise of a future capability – it's a completed launch vehicle ready for flight now, with the first one currently preparing for launch at our Integration and Control Facility in Wallops, Virginia, in the coming months.”


HASTE is evolved from Rocket Lab’s flagship 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 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 been selected by Dynetics to provide hypersonic test launch capability under the Multiservice Advanced Capability Test Bed (MACH-TB) project awarded by Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane division on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense. Separately, 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, which aims to increase the cadence of hypersonic testing at a decreased cost of traditional flight tests. Under the initiative, Rocket Lab will explore the integration of scramjet-powered payloads, including the DART AE (Additive Engineering) vehicle developed by Australian company Hypersonix Launch Systems. This continues DIU and Rocket Lab’s partnership, which started under the Space Systems Command Rapid Agile Launch Initiative (SSC-RALI) effort in 2018, providing rapid and agile launch capabilities to the DoD. Due to the prototype's success, any DoD organization can utilize DIU’s Solutions Catalog to procure launch services from Rocket Lab.


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.


HASTE will be primarily operated under Rocket Lab National Security (RLNS), the Company’s wholly owned subsidiary created to serve the unique needs of the U.S. defense and intelligence community and its allies. Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia is the launch site for HASTE.

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