The US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has signed a contract with Rocket Lab to provide its Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE) launch services for a military demonstration in Virginia.
The HASTE mission supports the US Department of Defense’s ongoing hypersonic tests for future national security applications.
Under the agreement, the HASTE testbed launch vehicle will deploy a suborbital drone developed by Australian firm Hypersonix called DART AE.
DART AE is a 3D-printed scramjet-powered hypersonic drone designed for non-ballistic flight maneuvers at speeds of up to Mach 7 (8,600 kilometers/5,400 miles per hour).
The testbed will launch from Rocket Lab’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport facility on Wallops Island.
At the demonstration, the HASTE vehicle will apply its “indirect inject” capability to deploy DART AE during ascent while remaining within the atmosphere. The test will be conducted as early as the first quarter of 2025.
“Rocket Lab’s HASTE suborbital launch vehicle is derived from the Company’s Electron rocket but has been modified to support hypersonic payload deployment,” the company said.
“By leveraging the heritage of Rocket Lab’s low-cost Electron – the world’s most frequently launched commercial small launch vehicle – HASTE offers true commercial testing capability at a fraction of the cost of current full-scale tests.”
Recent HASTE Contracts
The mission is the seventh suborbital launch contract awarded to Rocket Lab in 2023.
In April, the firm partnered with Hypersonix to facilitate DIU’s first hypersonic drone test.
Rocket Lab also collaborated with Leidos for the Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonic Test Bed, or MACH-TB program, to develop rapid testing for all hypersonic systems on the market.
Currently, Rocket Lab is engaged with four HASTE missions with Leidos set for 2024 and 2025.
A separate HASTE contract was awarded to the company in August for an unnamed customer.