UH plays key role in state’s first space launch

Avionics Engineer Amber Imai and Satellite Avionics Assistant Tristan Martinez adjust the satellite's attitude determination and control test bed. Photo courtesy: University of Hawaii
Avionics Engineer Amber Imai and Satellite Avionics Assistant Tristan Martinez adjust the satellite's attitude determination and control test bed. Photo courtesy: University of Hawaii

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University of Hawaii researchers and students are gearing up for Hawaii’s first space launch this fall.

The mission could create a new industry in the islands.

Ask a child what he or she wants to grow up to be and you might hear rocket scientist, NASA engineer or astronaut. These goals are currently being cultivated and nurtured here in the islands.

“Students in Hawaii are very capable and very high-tech oriented and we’re hoping to build that capability in the state,” UH Hawaii Space Flight Lab Director Dr. Luke Flynn said.

The HSFL at the University of Hawaii is preparing for the state’s first space launch this October.

A team of researchers and students will send a missile carrying satellites into low-earth orbit from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

“Having the students train on how to communicate with the satellite, uplink and downlink and get data downloaded and making pictures with it is an important part of what we are doing,” Dr. Flynn said.

The project is mainly funded by the federal government and is a launching pad for a possible emerging industry in Hawaii.

“We’re trying to attract small satellite industry to the state of Hawaii. We are hoping to create jobs within the state to actually facilitate building satellites here,” Dr. Flynn said.

Researchers say Hawaii’s location is close to the equator and the possibility of establishing a satellite launching station in the islands are both good reasons to test out the space launch program.

“We’ve gotten a lot of requests for partners for a receiving station capability from antennas and satellite passing over,” Dr. Flynn said.

If successful, a commercial launching service could be formed, charging around $16 million a launch and also providing hands-on education for our students.

“Training engineers for aerospace corporations as well as NASA are some of the goals as well,” Dr. Flynn said.

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