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Hawaii's first rocket launch, of 55-foot "Super Strypi" rocket, fails

HONOLULU -- Hawaii's much-delayed first space launch ended in failure Tuesday, the Air Force says.

The 55-foot "Super Strypi" rocket lifted off, but video shot by a spectator showed the craft breaking up in flight, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV reported. The first moments of the flight seemed to go well, but then it appeared to run into trouble.

An 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 mission was sponsored by the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space Office in conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Hawaii, the Pacific Missile Range Facility and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The flight was originally scheduled for October 2013 but was postponed several times due to technology and timing issues.

A 135-foot rail launcher was used to send the rocket aloft.

The three-stage flight was to carry more than a dozen satellites toward orbit.

"The ORS-4 Super Strypi mission is the first launch of this type of launch vehicle," a launch representative told The Associated Press Thursday in an email. "As such, and not unexpected, we are working through a few launch processing issues."

The "Super Strypi" rocket was part of an experimental test flight of a new military lightweight satellite booster, according to

More than $35 million in government funding has gone toward Super Strypi, which is expected to cost about $15 million to $16 million per flight when in production -- much less than current deliveries.

"Without a complex and costly guidance system, the (Super Strypi) 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 Rocketdyne said on its website.

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