The U.S. Air Force’s experimental Super Strypi rocket didn’t get off to a good start. Last night’s first flight experienced a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.” Fancy words for it blew up.
Onboard cameras capture the moment the rocket begins to fail. Fast forward to 1:15 in the video below to see the rocket start to spinning erratically.
Shortly after the rocket failure, the U.S. Air Force released a statement to Spaceflight Now.
“The ORS-4 mission on an experimental Super Strypi launch vehicle failed in mid-flight shortly after liftoff at 5:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (7:45 p.m. PST; 10:45 p.m. EST) today from the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”
Here’s a view of the launch from the ground.
The Super Strypi
As you can see, the Air Force is trying a simpler approach with the Super Strypi. It’s based on a Cold War-era military rocket but upgraded with a modern propulsion system. You see how the rocket is tilted at an angle? It’s attached to a rail on an actuating mount. It should allow engineers to point the rocket where they want it, without needing a complicated self-guidance system.
Last night’s failure wasn’t just the rocket. 13 small satellites were packed into the nose cone. Most of them were NASA-sponsored CubeSats testing new optical sensors and other technologies. The biggest was the 121-pound HiakaSat from the University of Hawaii. It was going to test new Earth observation technologies with its hyperspectral imaging camera.