University of Hawaii Smallsats

The University of Hawaii’s Small-Satellite Program was created with the intent of establishing a high-technology research and workforce-development infrastructure within the State of Hawaii. This multi-disciplinary, student-driven effort provides an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to work on (and lead) real-world engineering projects. Since 2002, over 150 undergraduate students in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering have been involved in the development of four generations of nanosatellites with state-of-the-art scientific payloads. The experimental payloads developed by the undergraduate students in this program include: thermal sensor units and thermal modeling software, geo-referenced imaging, solid-storage microthrusters, and retrodirective antenna array technologies. These projects have also provided the undergraduate students with great experience in collaborative work with the local scientific and high-tech industry.

The University of Hawaii (UH) began its Small-Satellite Program in 2002 with Mea Huaka`i (“Voyager” in Hawaiian), a standard 1-kg, 10 x 10 x 10 cm CubeSat. Launched as part of the failed multi-university DNEPR mission in July 2006, the scientific payload for this first phase of our program was a set of temperature sensors to verify UH-designed thermal modeling software, but the actual mission was just learning to build a bus. In the next phase, Hokulua (Twin Stars, 2003-2005) was developed to test retrodirective antenna array technologies in space for possible use in distributed satellite networks. In the third phase (2005-2006), Ho`okele (Way Finder) was developed with geo-referenced imaging capabilities for a distributed satellite network to detect terrestrial-based natural disasters. The geo-referenced imaging payload consisted of: a global positioning unit (GPS), nano-inertial measurement unit (nIMU), and a network camera.