The U.S. Defense Department Is Eyeing This Insanely Fast 3D-Printed Drone To Launch Into Orbit

In the dynamic landscape of space exploration, Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a prominent player in launch services and space systems, is again seizing the spotlight. Their recent collaboration with the US Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) unveils a groundbreaking endeavor — the Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE) mission.

Rocket Lab’s HASTE suborbital launch vehicle is more than a modification of their successful Electron rocket; it’s a bold leap into hypersonic territory. The mission, named HyCat (hypersonic and high-cadence testing), boasts the deployment of the DART AE by Hypersonix — a 3D-printed drone capable of non-ballistic flight at an astonishing Mach 7. This marks Rocket Lab’s seventh suborbital launch contract this year, showcasing its commitment to pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

The HASTE vehicle is designed to demonstrate the ‘direct inject’ capability, deploying the Hypersonix payload during ascent within Earth’s atmosphere. This innovation is not just about speed; it’s a cost-effective solution, offering true commercial testing capability compared to traditional full-scale tests.

Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab has become synonymous with innovation in the space industry. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, the company has a robust portfolio, including the Electron small orbital launch vehicle, the Photon satellite platform, and the upcoming large Neutron launch vehicle. The Electron stands as the world’s most frequently launched commercial small launch vehicle, showcasing the prowess that HASTE brings to the table.

Operated by Rocket Lab National Security (RLNS), a subsidiary dedicated to the defense and intelligence community, the HASTE mission underscores Rocket Lab’s commitment to serving unique sector needs. Collaborating with Hypersonix, RLNS was chosen by the DIU for the HyCat project, solidifying Rocket Lab’s role in accelerating hypersonic technologies for defense and intelligence applications.

Rocket Lab’s track record includes delivering 171 satellites to orbit since its maiden orbital launch in 2018, catering to both public and private sectors. The Photon spacecraft platform, another jewel in their crown, has been selected for NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, further highlighting Rocket Lab’s diverse contributions to space exploration.

In the ever-evolving space industry, Rocket Lab’s HASTE suborbital launch vehicle is a testament to its commitment to innovation, pushing the boundaries of speed, efficiency, and affordability in space exploration.

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