America’s newest satellite launch facility is at Barking Sands on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, exploiting the equatorial advantage and allowing the rocket to be much smaller. Much, much smaller. This rail-launched rocket is called Super Strypi and it’s a spin-stabilized solid-fuel rocket designed by the University of Hawaii, Sandia National Labs, and Aerojet Rocketdyne. It’s meant to deliver nanosatellites into sun-synchronous orbits with a unique guidance system that is actually not a guidance system at all — rather than a computerized steering system, it has canted fins to force it to spin rapidly, naturally stabilizing it. The rail launcher is then simply pointing into the desired azimuth. It’s basically a souped-up sounding rocket.
Unfortunately, the inaugural flight a couple of days ago did not go well, and the 13 CubeSats on board were all lost. The vehicle began oscillating and then ultimately broke up. But, this is the first flight of a completely new launch vehicle type. There is always a certain degree of risk there, since there is so much you don’t yet know on a new rocket. Here’s hoping they get the bugs worked out. 😉