Perched on its launch rail, the USAF Super Strypi rocket looked more like a typical Estes model rocket many might have build and launched as kids. Unfortunately for the Air Force and the much beleaguered Operationally Responsive Space Launch Office that oversaw yesterday’s launch from Hawaii, the results were pretty much the same.
Liftoff of the $45 million ORS-4 Super Strypi rocket powered by a first stage Aerojet Rocketdyne LEO-46 solid motor took place from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
A little over a minute after ignition, the spin stabilized booster suffered a catastrophic failure, taking with it some 14 cubesats meant for a targeted polar orbit of 302 miles. Among the casualties were 8 cubesats which comprised NASA’s Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. EDSN was designed to “demonstrate interactive satellite swarms capable of collecting, exchanging and transmitting multi-point scientific measurements.”
An Air Force statement was as obvious as it was succinct: “The ORS-4 mission on an experimental Super Strypi launch vehicle failed in mid-flight shortly after liftoff at 5:45 p.m.”
Yesterday’s failed launch, which would have been the first ever from from Hawaii, came on the heels of a GAO report released on October 29th which summarized the military’s somewhat scattershot approach to developing what it terms “operationally responsive” small launch vehicles.
The GAO report observed of the five small launcher programs being conducted by three DOD offices “At this time, none of these efforts is positioned to move from development and demonstration to production and fielding.”