Non-profit partners with Hawaii students to build a satellite for space exploration

Updated: Aug. 14, 2019 at 5:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the Big Island’s Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, machines shape the prototype for a miniature satellite.

The small box is called a CubeSat.

“It just so happened that this CubeSat launch kinda fell into our lap,” Director Christian Wong said.

With the help of middle- and high-school students, the Hilo-based non-profit is building the payload for a rocket Firefly Aerospace will launch into the thermosphere.

"These kids are so fortunate to be a part of working on an actual satellite that's going to go up into space," Wong said.

Firefly picked Hawaii Science because of its work with STEM students.

“These CubeSats are about 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters. It’s kind of a standard that was created to keep the cost of satellite launches down for students,” said Hawi Stecher, an instructor with STARBASE Hawaii.

When the satellite is in orbit 200 miles above the earth, it will search for radio waves from Jupiter and measure solar winds.

“It has a GPS along with other different sensors to track it’s location, to measure temperature and to measure pressure and things like that,” said Crystal Simeon, captain of the Lava Tubes Rocketry Team.

The information will be fed back to earth.

NASA, Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory and UH are also helping.

“This is a whole new ballgame for all of us. None of us have ever put a satellite into space,” Stecher said.

“It’s super nice because not many people can do this,” team member Cahara Stecher said.

The CubeSat will be on Firefly's Alpha Launch Vehicle.

"As far as I know most of their payloads are paid payloads," Wong said. "We were one of the really fortunate ones to get on this mission for free."

There’s a lot of pressure to perform. The payload has to be ready for Firefly’s launch in October.

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