Spaceflight Insider

Super Strypi fails on inaugural launch

Super Strypi

The Super Strypi just before a sunset launch on Nov. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

The inaugural flight of a new breed of expendable launchers ended prematurely when the Super Strypi vehicle broke up in mid-flight. According to the range officers on duty, the rocket began to tumble approximately one minute after liftoff resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its 13 small satellites.

The failure occurred shortly after launch On Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (7:45 p.m. PST; 10:45 p.m. EST) at Hawaii’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands. It was to be the first orbital launch from this facility and the first from the state of Hawaii. The primary payload was Hyperspectral Imaging and Aeronautical Kinematic Analysis Satellite (HiakaSat).

Super Strypi Launch

Photo Credit: University of Hawaii

The HiakaSat was a 120 pound (55 kilogram) imaging satellite. The spacecraft’s imager had a resolution of 722 feet (220 meters) and was to be used for Geological research, specifically volcanic activity. The satellite also carried the Space Ultra compact Hyperspectral Imager (SUCHI).

Eight of the secondary satellites were part of the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission for the Air Force-led Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office’s ORS-4 mission.

The EDSN spacecraft were developed by an engineering team at NASA Ames Research Center and was sponsored by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate. This was an experiment to see if research could be distributed among a cluster of smaller, less expensive satellites as opposed to building and launching one massive spacecraft. Each of these 1.5-unit CubeSat sized vehicles weighed in at 3.7 pounds (1.7 kilograms).

While the loss was unfortunate, according to NASA Ames, there will be an opportunity to complete some of the objectives of the EDSN mission in a follow-on mission called Nodes. The Nodes satellites were also developed by the EDSN project team and they have a similar design. Two of the Nodes are scheduled for launch to the International Space Station in December and will be deployed later.

Super Strypi is the nickname given to the vehicle known as the Spaceborne Payload Assist Rocket – Kauai (SPARK). It is a three stage expendable rocket designed to place small payloads into either low Earth orbit or sun synchronous orbit. The vehicle is capable of carrying up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms) to an altitude of 250 miles (400 kilometers). The rocket is the development work of Aerojet Rocketdyne, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Hawaii. The vehicle stands 55 feet tall (17 meters) with a diameter of 5 feet (1.5 meters). At liftoff the total mass exceeds 62,000 pounds (28,000 kilograms). To keep the design simple, the Super Strypi uses a technique called spin stabilization to hold the rocket on target. This eliminates the need for a primary active control system, thereby reducing production costs.

Aerojet Rocketdyne produced the engines used for each of the three stages. The first stage uses an LEO-46 motor. The second and third stages use LEO-7 and LEO-1 motors that were originally designed to the specifications for Orbital ATK’s Orbus-7S and Orbus-1 motors. All three motors are solid propellant burning a blend of ammonium nitrate. The Sandia National laboratory provided the rocket’s subsystems.

The Super Strypi is the resurrection of a similarly named vehicle that was used from the 1960s by the Air Force for nuclear tests. After the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, the vehicles were no longer used for this sort of testing; however, the design found a second life as a scientific payload launcher. The last Strypi was flown in 1997.

Video courtesy of Glasswire


Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

Reader Comments

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