University of Hawaii Plays a Vital Role in Hawaii’s First Space Launch

Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory Director Luke Flynn with a model of the launcher and Super Strypi launch vehicle.
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Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory Director Luke Flynn with a model of the launcher and Super Strypi launch vehicle.

The University of Hawai‘i has vital responsibilities for the first space launch from the State of Hawai‘i, which is scheduled for October 2013.  When the Super Strypi missile takes flight from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua‘i, it will be carrying a satellite designed by University of Hawai‘i faculty and students.  UH will have also played a significant role in getting that satellite into space.

President M.R.C. Greenwood said, “Hawai‘i is located in a unique position to become a low-cost gateway to space.  The University of Hawai‘i is one of the only universities in the world to have both satellite fabrication capabilities and unique, direct access to orbital space.”


For the state’s first space launch, the University of Hawai‘i’s Hawaii Space Flight Lab (HSFL) is the contractor for the launch facility, three rocket motor stages (designed and built by Aerojet), and a satellite to be placed into low-earth orbit.  HSFL faculty and students are hard at work on HiakaSat.  “Hiaka” means “to recite legends or fabulous stories” in Hawaiian.  It is also an acronym for Hyperspectral Imaging, Aeronautical Kinematic Analysis.  The 110-lb. satellite is being designed to do a number of things including performing thermal hyperspectral imaging.

HSFL was established in 2007 within the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the College of Engineering.  As a multidisciplinary research and education center, HSFL brings together individuals from diverse area and other UH campuses to work on the exploration and understanding of the space environment.  Kaua‘i Community College will be the primary communications link.  Honolulu Community College is designing one of the satellite payloads and will operate a receiving station during the mission.

Greenwood said, “The work on this mission is creating invaluable workforce development opportunities and training for students across the University of Hawai‘i system. In addition, UH is helping to develop Hawai‘i’s space science enterprise. We hope our graduates will go to work for related research and technology companies right here in Hawai‘i or will go on to form their own space-science related businesses.”

HSFL Director Luke Flynn says the university would like to be able to launch small satellites on a regular basis, which will attract companies that are looking for affordable ways to test space technology.

Flynn says, “The University of Hawai‘i helps to hold down the cost by playing a key role in the research and development of space technology, which also gives students hands-on experiences.  This creates a win-win for the university, for the country, for the state, and also for the corporations that are willing to invest.”





  1. How can an Earth-orbiting satellite be launched safely from the west coast of Kauai? As far as I know the Navy's launch site is on Kauai's west coast. Since most satellites go from west to east, this launch must be over the island and it's population during the initial critical seconds of its trajectory. Could it be that launches from Kauai are limited to polar orbits which launch nearly north or south, just like launches from California?

  2. wow….those students are so lucky! They are taking part in something that will be in history books. Keep up the good work!

  3. Well, it's only natural considering that a university prepares people of science! unfortunately, this happens pretty rarely

  4. It's the best opportunity for the University of Hawaii to take this responsibility and do the best to deliver. it will be helpful for the university to attract more talented students and it will have a good impact on the students. Thanks for sharing this information here.

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