Rail launcher for Hawaii’s first space launch completed

October 29, 2013  |   |  1 Comment
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rail launcher and rocket

The rail launcher to be used in Hawaiʻi’s first space launch is unveiled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Attached to the rail launcher is a scale model of the Super Strypi rocket that will carry a satellite constructed by University of Hawaiʻi faculty and students. (Photo credit: Sandia National Laboratories)

The 135-foot rail launcher to be used in Hawaiʻi’s first space launch, known as ORS-4, was unveiled on October 28 at the National Technical Systems (NTS) facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. NTS and Western Fabrication built the rail launcher. A full-sized model of the Super Strypi rocket that will be used in the Hawaiʻi launch was also unveiled.

The mission manager for the launch is the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office. The open house event was hosted by ORS and project partners Sandia National Laboratories, the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauaʻi, Aerojet Rocketdyne Corp., and the University of Hawaiʻi’s Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL). The launch is currently planned for spring 2014.

The ORS-4 mission is sponsored by the ORS Office and is the first launch of the Super Strypi launch system. This mission will demonstrate a new, low-cost launch capability able to deliver 300 kilograms to low-earth orbit. This is the first orbital launch from the Pacific Missile Range Facility and will carry the University of Hawaiʻi’s hyperspectral imager as the primary payload, along with 12 cubesats in an integrated payload stack. This demonstration will enable low-cost launch alternatives and range processes for the future.

When the Super Strypi rocket takes flight from the U.S. Navy’s PMRF on Kauaʻi, it will be carrying a satellite designed and built by University of Hawaiʻi faculty and students. UH will have also played a significant role in getting the satellite into space. With this mission, UH has become one of the only universities in the world to have both satellite fabrication capabilities and direct access to orbital space.

Interim President David Lassner said, “The University of Hawaiʻi is pleased to support the state in becoming a low-cost gateway to space and to provide our students with real-world experience that will be invaluable as we train Hawaiʻi’s aerospace workforce.”

HSFL is responsible for payload development, and project management of the rail launcher and launch pad. The University of Hawaiʻi’s faculty and students are building the primary payload called HiakaSat. “Hiaka” means “to recite legends or fabulous stories” in Hawaiian. It is also an acronym for Hyperspectral Imaging, Aeronautical Kinematic Analysis. The 110-pound 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 and the College of Engineering. As a multidisciplinary research and education center, HSFL brings together individuals from diverse areas and other UH campuses to work on the exploration and understanding of the space environment. Kauaʻi Community College will be the primary communications link for the satellite. Honolulu Community College is designing one of the satellite payloads and will operate a receiving station during the mission. Windward Community College and UH Hilo are also involved.

Lassner said, “The Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory has brought in more than $35 million in government funding for this project and is partnering with top tier aerospace companies for our state’s first space launch. It is a great example of the critical role UH plays in the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative to build the research sector and to create exciting jobs for future generations.”

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. HSFL is looking for partners willing to invest in this endeavor.

The launch rail system will now be disassembled and moved to Kauaʻi, where it will be reassembled for the 2014 launch.

A UH System news release

Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative (HI2)

The University of Hawaiʻi is working in partnership with the private sector and government to build a thriving $1-billion research enterprise in Hawaiʻi that will develop a third major economic sector for the state, create thousands of high-quality living-wage jobs and address the challenges and opportunities that face our communities and the world to improve our quality of life. Visit the HI2 website for more information.

Additional UH News coverage

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