On April 17, 2023, US space company Rocket Lab unexpectedly announced the development program of a brand new launch vehicle: HASTE. This new rocket is derived from the company’s more famous Electron vehicle.
HASTE (Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron) will be a leading testbed for the development of future key hypersonic technologies providing reliable, high-cadence suborbital flight test opportunities.
Introducing HASTE: Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) April 17, 2023
A suborbital testbed rocket derived from Electron.
Reliable, high-cadence suborbital flight test opportunities to advance hypersonic tech development. Ready for launch from Virginia now. https://t.co/591S2RnwTX pic.twitter.com/LAhzDPh2wF
HASTE will use the same carbon composite structure and 3D-printed Rutherford engines as Electron. The third stage will instead be modified to allow customized suborbital deployments. The payload capacity will be increased up to 700 kg (1540 lbs) and the tailored fairings will accommodate larger and different payloads.
The first HASTE rocket is already being prepared for a launch from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in the first half of 2023. LC-2 will be the only launch site for this vehicle.
HASTE has already several contracts
In recent years Rocket Lab carried out various missions for the US Department of Defense, with HASTE the company will increase this partnership in new fields of defense, also collaborating with private companies.
Rocket Lab has been selected by the American company Dynetics (Leidos) to provide military hypersonic test launch capability under the Multiservice Advanced Capability Test Bed (MACH-TB) program for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). MACH-TB aims to speed up the development of hypersonic weapons by creating new opportunities to test these technologies onboard commercially-available launch vehicles.
HASTE has been chosen by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for additional hypersonic flight tests under the Hypersonic and high-cadence testing capabilities (HyCAT) program.
Rocket Lab was also selected by Missile Defense Agency Targets and Countermeasures (MDA/TC) to conduct a study to evaluate a variety of payloads on HASTE, highlighting the versatility of this new rocket in providing flexible launch trajectories.
Partenrship with Hypersonix for DART AE debut
Thanks to HASTE, Rocket Lab will explore the integration of scramjet-powered payloads. The Australian company Hypersonix was selected to provide a prototype vehicle for the HyCAT project; the company developed DART AE, a 3D-printed hydrogen-fuelled, scramjet technology demonstrator.
This vehicle is powered by a single SPARTAN scramjet engine that will allow DARTE AE to reach a speed up to Mach 7 for a range of 1000 km (621 miles). SPARTAN is the only 3-D printed, reusable fixed geometry scramjet. To minimize environmental impact, the engine is powered only with green hydrogen, generated from seawater using solar power.
The first test launch is scheduled for this year, HASTE will carry DARTE AE to its initial operating speed, allowing it to demonstrate its non-ballistic flight patterns and collect valuable data at hypersonic speed.
“We have looked at various launch providers globally, as DART AE is designed to work with a variety of boosters. We are particularly excited to get our first ride from Rocket Lab. Their track record of successful launches, their team as well as their rockets are impressive and we look forward to seeing DART AE fly for the first time next year”David Waterhoyse, CEO of Hypersonix
All this, and future, projects are the demonstration of how much Rocket Lab is determined to take a market share in full development, also given recent evolutions of the global geopolitical scene.