The first launch in Hawai‘i of an orbital rocket, a 55-foot Super Strypi, has failed, as confirmed by the U.S. Air Force Tuesday evening.
The U.S. Navy along with U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space Office, in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Hawaiʻi’s Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory, the Pacific Missile Range Facility and Aerojet Rocketdyne Corp. launched the first rocket from Hawaiʻi into orbital space Tuesday.
The first moments of the flight appeared to go well, but an animation of the launch vehicle derived from telemetry appeared to show it tumbling shortly after liftoff.
A video shot by a spectator near PMRF also appears to show the Super Strypi vehicle breaking up in flight shortly after lift off.
The rocket was launched from the U.S. Navy’s PMRF at Barking Sands, Kauaʻi, through a mission known as ORS-4. The rocket was carrying a satellite designed and built by UH faculty and students. With this launch, UH became one of the only universities in the world to have both satellite fabrication capabilities and direct access to space.
The ORS-4 mission was sponsored by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Operationally Responsive Space Office and was the first launch of the Super Strypi launch system. The mission was supposed to demonstrate a new, low-cost launch capability able to deliver 300 kilograms to Low-Earth Orbit. The rocket carried UH’s hyperspectral imager as the primary payload, along with 12 cubesats in an integrated payload stack.
Low-cost Gateway to Space
“The Super Strypi design is projected to reset the bar for low cost small launch below $20 million with a production goal of $15 million,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for space, said before the failed lift off. He had praised UH for being “critical to bringing this capability to fruition.”
Prior to the launch, UH President David Lassner said UH was pleased to support the State of Hawaiʻi in becoming a “low-cost gateway to space” and to provide students with real-world experience that will be invaluable as they train Hawaiʻi’s aerospace workforce.
UH was responsible for payload development and project management of the rail launcher and launch pad. UH’s faculty and students built the primary payload called HiakaSat. “Hiaka” means “to recite legends or fabulous stories” in Hawaiian. It is also an acronym for Hyperspectral Imaging, Aeronautical Kinematic Analysis. The 110-lb. satellite was designed to do a number of things including performing thermal hyperspectral imaging of Earth’s oceans, volcanoes, wildfires and urban areas during heatwaves.
Hawaiʻi Space Flight Lab Builds Research Economy
UH Mānoa’s HSFL was established in 2007 within the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and the College of Engineering. As a multidisciplinary research and education center, HSFL brings together individuals from diverse areas and other UH campuses to work on the exploration and understanding of the space environment. Kauaʻi Community College is serving as the primary communications link for the satellite. Honolulu Community College designed one of the satellite payloads and would operate a receiving station during the mission.
“The Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory has brought in more than $35 million in government funding for this project and partnered with top tier aerospace companies for our state’s first space launch. It is a great example of the critical role UH plays in the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative to build the research sector and to create exciting jobs for future generations,” Lassner said prior to the failed lift off.
Before Tuesday’s failed attempt, HSFL Director Luke Flynn said the university would like to be able to launch small satellites on a regular basis, which would attract companies looking for affordable ways to test space technology.
HSFL is looking for partners willing to invest in the endeavor.