spaceSpace and Physics

U.S. Air Force Rocket Explodes One Minute After Launching


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

3415 U.S. Air Force Rocket Explodes One Minute After Launching
The failure of the Super Strypi is seen here. Mason Weitzel.

A new unmanned rocket built for the U.S. Air Force has failed moments after launching. Called the Super Strypi, the small rocket was lifting 13 satellites into orbit as part of the ORS-4 mission before it spun out of control.

Telemetry showed the rocket seemingly spinning wildly at high altitude just a minute or so after the launch, before a live stream showing the event went blank. Amateur footage, though, shows the moment that the rocket is believed to have failed, and subsequently possibly exploded.


"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," the U.S. Air Force said in a statement seen by Spaceflight Now. "Additional information will be released as it becomes available."



An amateur video of the launch above appears to show it failing at the end. Credit: Mason Weitzel.


The launch took place at 22:45 p.m. EST (5:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time) yesterday evening, 3:45 a.m. GMT this morning. The inaugural launch of the $45 million (£29 million) rocket, which measures 17 meters (56 feet) in height and just 79 centimeters (31 inches) wide, was one of two planned orbital test flights. The Super Strypi is intended as a low-cost method to reach space, with a quick turnaround allowing for swift launches at fairly short notice.

The Super Strypi is also known as the Spaceborne Payloads Assist Rocket Kauai (SPARK), and is part of the Low Earth Orbiting Nanosatellite Integrated Defense Autonomous System (LEONIDAS) program. The 13 small satellites it was carrying on this launch were for institutions such as the University of Hawaii and NASA.

It’s not clear when a second attempt at flying will be made; a review of the failure on this flight will be needed before that can happen.

The video below shows the view on board when the rocket spun out of control in orbit.





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