The first rocket launch from Hawaii, the Air Force Super Strypi, ended in a spectacular crash Tuesday evening, with a spectator capturing the whole disaster on a smartphone video. The clip went viral on mainstream as well as social media Wednesday morning.
The rocket was intended to provide an economical means for quickly transporting small satellites and other payloads into space, including the HiakaSat, a satellite designed by University of Hawaii researchers that would have provided new data on climate change factors, ocean temperatures, and overall global warming, according to a report in the New York Times.
Unfortunately, the crash of the Super Strypi rocket destroyed the environmental research satellite along with 12 other small satellites that the rocket would have released into orbit at an altitude of 304 miles above the Earth, according to Spaceflight Now.
By comparison, the International Space Station orbits at an average altitude of 248 miles above the planet’s surface.
The crash of the Hawaii military rocket came exactly 11 months after NASA had far greater success with the first launch of the Orion spacecraft, which is designed to eventually carry the first human beings to the planet Mars.
Read an Inquisitr report on the Orion spacecraft at this link.
The video, taken by spectator Mason Weitzel on a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone, can be viewed above on this page.
The initial takeoff of the rocket appears smooth and uneventful, breaking the sound barrier just 20 seconds after liftoff. But approximately one minute into the flight, the Super Strypi begins to show the first signs that all is not well, as the trajectory of the rocket takes a sharp downward turn.
The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, which is based in Los Angeles, California, but which was the agency in charge of the Hawaii rocket launch, issued a terse statement announcing the crash late Tuesday night.
“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 Air Force statement read. “Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”
The cause of the Super Strypi rocket crash is not yet clear.
But researchers at the University of Hawaii, a main subcontractor on the Super Strypi project, deemed the Super Strypi launch a success in spite of the spectacular flameout of its first-ever space rocket.
“Despite what happened today, this is a tremendous success for the University of Hawaii,” said a university spokesperson, Dan Meisenzahl, quoted in a UPI report. “We had about 150 students work on this program. They built a satellite. It met every milestone. It passed every test and they delivered it on time.”
The Hawaii crash was the third failure of a rocket mission this year and the fourth in the past 13 months — starting with the explosion of the Antares rocket in October of last year as it tried to lift off on the way to bring supplies and new science equipment to the International Space Station.
In April of this year, the Russian Progress 59 rocket headed for the space station also failed to make it, spinning out and dropping back to Earth.
And in June, the privately owned Space X rocket blew up just three minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Florida. A full Inquisitr report on the Space X failure, including video of the explosion, can be accessed at this link.
As in the Hawaii Super Strypi rocket crash on Tuesday, all three previous failed rockets were unmanned.
[Image via United States Air Force]