Hawaii's first rocket launch turned into a disaster Tuesday night when the U.S. Air Force's experimental Super Strypi rocket failed shortly after liftoff.
After a two-year launch delay, the Super Strypi rocket finally blasted off from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai Tuesday night, carrying 13 small cube satellites that were set to be deployed in space.
Liftoff appeared smooth as the rocket ascended into the sky. About 30 seconds into a video, which was shot by a spectator, the rocket appears to erratically veer off course. It was not immediately known what caused the failure.
A statement from the U.S. Air Force statement said, "The ORS-4 mission on an experimental Super Strypi launch vehicle failed in mid-flight 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 University of Hawaii, one of the partners in the launch, said in a statement that "despite the vehicle issue, the project is still a tremendous success."
"About 150 students worked on the payload, a hyperspectral imager called HiakaSat. All milestones for the payload were met and the students received real-world aerospace experience in building a sophisticated satellite," according to the university. "Because of this project, there is now a rocket launch pad and rail launcher in place at Pacific Missle Range Facility and those assets performed well today."
It hasn't been a good year for rocket launches. SpaceX's Dragon exploded in June shortly after it launched on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. In April, Russia's Progress 59 failed on its cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Antares rocket exploded last October moments after takeoff, destroying science experiments and supplies bound for the International Space Station.