June 20, 2023
Rocket Lab Secret Launch

By Linda Cicoira

Rocket Lab confirmed via Twitter that Saturday night’s hush-hush mission from Wallops Island was successful.

“Mission success for the launch of our new suborbital launch vehicle! …. Congratulations to our mission partners, and welcome to a new era of hypersonic test launch capability!”

There was little to no fanfare when Rocket Lab’s first hypersonic accelerator suborbital test Electron mission, called HASTE, lifted off at 9:24 p.m., from the company’s Launch Complex 2 at Wallops Flight Facility. The mission was classified. What was in the payload and its mass have not been disclosed.

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The range team worked tirelessly to support this first HASTE mission for Rocket Lab,” David L. Pierce, Wallops Flight Facility director said in a post on NASA’s website. “Wallops, at its core, is a test and research range perfectly suited for these sorts of missions. Wallops, NASA’s only owned and operated launch range, enabled the mission providing services such as tracking, telemetry, and range safety to ensure a safe and successful mission.”

According to nasaspaceflight.com, in April, the defense innovation unit selected the HASTE program to prototype a hypersonic launch under the Hypersonic and High-Cadence Testing Capabilities Program, which aims to increase hypersonic launch cadence and decrease cost.

Rocket Lab’s HASTE missions use its Electron launch vehicle with a modified kick stage and fairings. As the rocket is not attempting to reach orbit, Electron’s payload capacity increases to 700 kilograms.

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility also has a mission planned for later this month. More than 30 university teams will launch experiments into space as part of NASA’s RockOn and RockSat-C student flight programs on June 22. The planned launch window will open at 5:30 a.m.

In addition to the university payloads, about 80 additional experiments will take flight as part of the Cubes in Space Program, which partners with Wallops to provide flight opportunities for students aged 11 to 18.

     The experiments will fly on a Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket. Live coverage of the mission is scheduled to begin at 5:10 a.m., on the Wallops YouTube site. Launch updates also are available via Wallops Facebook and Twitter sites. The Wallops Visitor Center will be open for launch viewing opening at 4:30 a.m.

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