Rocket Lab launches 1st suborbital version of Electron vehicle

Rocket Lab launches 1st suborbital version of Electron vehicle

Rocket Lab launched the first suborbital version of its Electron vehicle on June 17 under a veil of secrecy only broken by the rocket’s engines.

At 9:24 p.m. Eastern, the Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE) vehicle took off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island, Virginia. Nearly an hour and a half after liftoff, Rocket Lab issued a statement announcing the launch’s success.

“100% mission success from tonight’s launch,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, tweeted after the flight. “A perfect flight of the nation’s newest hypersonic test platform HASTE.”

Rocket Lab withheld information regarding the HASTE flight, including the payload, peak altitude, and speed. The launch was not announced in advance by the company, nor was a webcast made available. The only prior notice was provided by airspace restrictions published by the Federal Aviation Administration and a tweet from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, which stated that the facility’s visitor center would not be open to the public during the launch period for Rocket Lab.

Compared to previous orbital Electron launches from Wallops and Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, which were widely publicized in advance, this level of secrecy is a far cry from the norm. Even missions for U.S. customers in national security, like the National Reconnaissance Office, were broadcast in advance.

In April, Rocket Lab announced HASTE, which only made minor changes to the standard Electron, like strengthening its structures. For suborbital tests, the vehicle is designed to carry payloads of up to 700 kilograms.

In an interview shortly after the company announced HASTE, Beck stated that the Defense Department would demand a lot of hypersonics testing and targets. He asserted, “We can get exact trajectories at a cost and frequency but also an accuracy that’s never been available before.”

Rocket Lab claims it can achieve greater economies of scale for the vehicle because HASTE is comparable to the standard Electron. “The more vehicles we put through the factory, the cheaper they get,” Beck stated in April.

Rocket Lab intends to exclusively launch HASTE from Wallops. In a post-launch statement, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility director David Pierce stated, “Wallops, at its core, is a test and research range perfectly suited for these sorts of missions.”

Rocket Lab predicted 15 Electron launches in 2023, including both orbital and HASTE missions, during an earnings call on May 9. The split between the two was not made public by the business. This marked the sixth launch of the Electron this year.

Topics #1st suborbital version #Electron vehicle #Rocket Lab

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