A small, experimental rail-launched rocket failed its debut flight on Tuesday, destroying 13 small research satellites.
The 67-foot tall Super Strypi rocket lifted off at 10:45 p.m. EST Tuesday from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The 31-ton rocket began falling from the sky less than a minute later.
The Air Force Tuesday night issued a statement that the mission, known as ORS-4, had failed.
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"Additional information will be released as it becomes available," the Air Force said.
The accident claimed a 122-pound University of Hawaii satellite outfitted with a hyperspectral imager to test new technologies for observing Earth from orbit.
Also aboard were 12 tiny NASA-backed CubeSats including the eight-member Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks, intended to demonstrate radio cross-linking and reconfigurable software, and and PrintSat, whose structural components were mostly manufactured on 3D printers.
The 31-ton Super Strypi rocket was developed under the military's Low Earth Orbiting Nanosatellite Integrated Defense Autonomous System, or LEONIDAS, program to spur low-cost, on-demand launchers for small payloads.
Super Strypi is expected to slash costs to less than $20 million per launch, the Air Force said.
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The rocket is launched from a tilted, truss-mounted rail system, a technology that previously had been used for smaller, sub-orbital rockets.
"Without a complex and costly guidance system, the launch aims to demonstrate a concept that cuts preparation and processing time from months to weeks, thereby slashing the cost of launching small satellites into orbit," Aerojet Rockdyne, a partner in the Super Strypi, project wrote on its website.
Super Strypi is outfitted with aerodynamic fins to keep it properly oriented during the first stage of flight.
In addition to Aerojet, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Hawaii developed the rocket.