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Hilo Students to Send CubeSat to Space

August 25, 2019, 2:08 PM HST
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A student from the Lava Tubes Rocketry Team checks out a model of the CubeSat. PC: University of Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i Island students are contributing to a project, which will soon be accurately described as out of this world—literally.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) is teaming up with the Hawai‘i Science and Technology Museum (HSTM) and Hilo students to launch a mini-satellite, or CubeSat, into space, a UH press release said. HSTM was recently awarded the DREAM Payload Program grant from Firefly Aerospace.

Once deployed from Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle, the HSTM CubeSat will collect the data for its four missions in science, art, engineering and education.

“The main objective of our CubeSat mission is to bring more aerospace curriculum to the students of Hawaiʻi Island,” said Christian Wong, director of HSTM. “We’re actually going to space.”

The satellite and electronics will be assembled at IfA’s clean room in Hilo, and subsequently transported to Vandenberg, California, for launch in 2020. Clean rooms are specialized spaces where contaminants are kept to low levels for the manufacture or assembly of delicate equipment, the release said.

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“Having our local astronomy community right here in our own backyard is going to be invaluable to this mission,” said Wong. “Knowing that we can rely on their resources and expertise, particularly for the instrumentation and testing, is invaluable. There are so many benefits to being able to partner locally with world-class research institutions.”

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CubeSat is part of a new HSTM aerospace program based out of Hilo Intermediate School, which will include creating lessons for distribution to other local schools, as well as forming a team to compete in the NASA Student Launch Initiative for middle and high school students. Currently, there are 20 Hawaiʻi Island students selected to form the Lava Tubes Rocketry Team.

Electrical engineer Amber Imai-Hong, Waiākea High and UH graduate, advises the group remotely from the Hawaiʻi Space Flight Lab based on the UH Mānoa campus.

HSTM is looking for private and corporate donors to help cover the costs of the community aerospace program, estimated at approximately $50,000, which would include the expense of the CubeSat mission. HSTM will be documenting their CubeSat build and launch through social media as well as on their website (also @HawaiiScience and @HawaiiScienceMuseum).

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