Navy Looks to Extend Danger Zone at Pacific Missile Range on Kauai


Navy officials in Hawaii have begun preparations for the debut of a new small satellite launcher by requesting the expansion of a danger zone around the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, The Garden Island reports.

If approved, the danger zone fronting PMRF would roughly triple in size, encompass about 7 miles of coastline — from Barking Sands to Kokole Point — and extend between 2.96 and 4.19 nautical miles out to sea.

“Currently, PMRF’s danger zone is situated near the north launch pads, but the modification is necessary to include planned launches from a southern pad as part of the University of Hawaii and NASA’s Super Strypi project,” states a release….

“They’re still constructing the launch pad right now,” said [PMRF Public Affairs Officer Stefan] Alford, adding that the initial launch will likely happen early next year.

Alford added that when a launch is scheduled at the southern end of PMRF, the northern end would remain open — and vice versa — so as not to restrict access to the entire coast.

The rail-launched Super Strypi (a.k.a., Spaceborne Payload Assist Rocket Kauai or SPARK) is a project of the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space (ORS), University of Hawaii, Aerojet and Sandia National Laboratory.

The rocket will be capable of launching small satellites and CubeSats into low Earth and sun synchronous orbits at a low cost. The objective is to place 250 kg. (551 lb.) payloads into a 400-km (249 mile) sun-synchronous orbit from Kauai.

“Over the years the launch vehicle concept has evolved, as has the U.S. Government’s interest in developing low-cost launch systems for an emerging small satellite capability,” ORS says on its website. “The Super Strypi Project, once successful, could support the future development of the U.S. aerospace work force as it provides space access to University programs, encourages entrepreneurship and industrial relations within the scientific community.”


SPARK can be configured to carry one or two small satellites as well as multiple CubeSats using the NASA Ames Payload Adapter and Deployer (PAD). The precise number of CubeSats depends upon their size and the number of small satellites carried on the mission.

The rocket consists of three Aerojet solid stages, with LEO-46 engine on the first stage, LEO-7 motor on the second stage, and a LEO-1 engine on the third stage. It is based on the Strypi rocket developed by Sandia National Laboratory, which is one of the program’s partners. The Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL) at the University of Hawaii is the prime contractor on the program.

Diagram of the SPARK launch vehicle.

ORS is funding the development as part of its LEONIDAS program, which stands for Low Earth Orbiting Nanosatellite Integrated Defense Autonomous System. The goal of the program is to increase access to space for defense, NASA, and university payloads.

The first two missions will include the following payloads:

STU-1: First LEONIDAS Mission

  • Objectives : Deployment of rideshare satellites in low-Earth orbit, flight test of SPARK launch vehicle and insertion accuracy, dynamic test of launch rail.
  • Payload Mass : 50-60% mass capacity (~165 kg)
  • Potential Payloads : CubeSat Payload Adapter and Small Satellite

STU-2: Second LEONIDAS Mission

  • Objectives : Full payload deployment test, deployment of HawaiiSat-1 and rideshare satellites in low-Earth orbit.
  • Orbit : 550 km Sun-synchronous orbit
  • Payload Mass : Full capacity
  • Potential Payloads : CubeSat Payload Adapter, HawaiiSat-1, Small Satellite

The rocket was set to make its debut this year. However, that flight appears to have slipped into 2014, according to the PMRF spokesman quoted by Garden Island.

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