Hawaii community college students prepare to send experiments into space

It’s going to be an exciting, and nerve-wracking weekend for students from three different community colleges at the University of Hawaii.

Project Imua allows undergraduate students in project-based STEM research to develop small payloads for space flight.

Students from Windward, Honolulu, Kapiolani, and Kauai community colleges put together three experiments utilizing different types of technology that will be loaded onto a rocket set to blast off in Virginia.

According to Project Imua student Damien Apilando, the experiments consist of “two on-board cameras, and we have accelerometers to take data during flight, and then on the sublimation rocket itself, we have two look-back cameras that communicate with the payload on the actual rocket through Wi-Fi.”

Two students and a mentor are on site at NASA preparing for the launch. Apilando admits the team is anxious: “We’re hoping it works.”

UH community college students Nick Herrmann and Cale Mechler are at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. (Photo: University of Hawaii)

Project Imua mentor Jake Hudson says the opportunity provides invaluable, hands-on experience for the students.

“They actually undergo what any company that would be subcontracted by NASA, or in fact the United States government, would have to undergo,” he explained. “They have to show a series of reviews showing the progress that is being made. They have to do the accounting showing where the money is going, and then ultimately, they then get manifested if they are successful, and then they fly.”

The rocket was supposed to launch Friday night in Virginia, but bad weather pushed it back a day. The new launch window is set for 11:30 p.m. Aug. 12 to 3:30 a.m. Aug. 13 HST.

You can watch it via live stream here (if you’re still up).

This will be Project Imua’s third payload. The first was launched on a NASA sounding rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in the summer of 2015.

Its second payload consisted of a neutron-gamma ray detector and a powered rocket that was deployed at a height of 96 miles. Although the sounding rocket’s suborbital flight on Aug. 17, 2016 was successful, NASA search planes were unable to find and recover the payload containing the UH experiments.

The payload was declared lost at sea in the Atlantic.

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