HASTE: Rocket Lab's modified suborbital Electron rocket just flew for the first time

'A perfect flight of the nation's newest hypersonic test platform HASTE.'
Chris Young
Rocket Lab's HASTE at launch.
Rocket Lab's HASTE at launch.

Rocket Lab / Twitter 

For the first time, Rocket Lab launched a suborbital version of its Electron rocket on Saturday, June 17.

The launch system, called Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE), took off from Launch Complex 2 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at 9:24 pm ET. It was a secretive mission, launched by Rocket Lab's national defense subsidiary, so no live stream footage was shared online.

"100 percent mission success from tonight's launch," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted shortly after the launch. "A perfect flight of the nation's newest hypersonic test platform HASTE."

Rocket Lab's modified Electron rocket takes to the skies

Rocket Lab has not disclosed the payload it lifted aboard its HASTE booster and it didn't release any specifications about the launch.

Prior to the launch, though, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility tweeted the launch period for the Rocket Lab launch and advised that the facility's visitor center would be closed, meaning no public viewers would be allowed.

Rocket Lab first announced HASTE in April, stating that it was designed to help test technologies for a hypersonic craft capable of flying at up to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

At the time, the company explained that the new launch system would have a strengthened structure and could lift up to 1,540 lbs (700 kg) to suborbital space. As a point of reference, Rocket Lab's standard model Electron lifts up to 660 lbs (300 kg) to low Earth orbit (LEO).

Rocket Lab kickstarts 'cost-effective hypersonic' test service

Rocket Lab's HASTE system uses the same 3D-printed Rutherford engines as Electron, but it has a modified Kick Stage for hypersonic payload deployment.

"Hypersonic and suborbital test capabilities are key priorities for the nation, yet the DoD's ability to test these systems has been limited," Brian Rogers, senior director of Global Launch Services at Rocket Lab explained in April. "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."

Rocket Lab, which is based in New Zealand and the US, will exclusively launch HASTE from NASA's Wallops facility, which is predominantly used as a test and research range. It is also currently working on the development of its next-generation Neutron rocket, which will have a similar payload capacity to SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

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