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Engineering team wins third place in national nanosatellite competition

Satellite also selected for upcoming NASA launch

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Wayne A. Shiroma, (808) 956-7218
Professor, Electrical Engineering
Posted: Feb 25, 2011

(clockwise from left) Engineering students John Furumo, Nicholas Fisher, and Kelson Lau.
(clockwise from left) Engineering students John Furumo, Nicholas Fisher, and Kelson Lau.
Ho`oponopono team.
Ho`oponopono team.

A team of UH Mānoa electrical and mechanical engineering students won two awards in a national nanosatellite competition held last month in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Since 2009, the students have been part of the University Nanosatellite Program, which provides a rigorous, two-year, concept-to-flight-ready spacecraft development experience to train tomorrow’s space professionals. Eleven schools, selected from over two dozen applicants, were each awarded a $110,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics providing program administration.

The other ten schools in the competition were Cornell, Georgia Tech, MIT, Michigan Tech University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Montana State University, Santa Clara University, St. Louis University, University of Central Florida, and University of Minnesota. The UH Mānoa team won the Third Place and Most Improved awards. In addition, the team was also selected for participation in the 2011-2013 competition.

In keeping with the UH Mānoa Small Satellite Program’s 10-year tradition of giving its satellites Hawaiian names, UH Mānoa’s nanosatellite was called Ho`oponopono (“To Make Right”), an appropriate name given its mission of providing calibration for radar stations around the world. Ho`oponopono is approximately 30 times smaller than the primary radar calibration satellite currently in orbit, and which is facing imminent failure as it is operating 16 years past its expected lifetime. Ho`oponopono takes the form of a so-called CubeSat, which is about the size of a shoebox. CubeSats are becoming increasingly important to the commercial, government, and scientific communities, and are featured in this month’s issue of Scientific American.

In related news, NASA announced this month that Ho`oponopono is one of 20 CubeSats selected to fly as auxiliary cargo aboard rockets planned to launch in 2011 and 2012. The first CubeSats to be flown in NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission is expected to launch next month, and the UH Mānoa team will be assisting in ground station tracking.

More than 30 students participated on the Ho`oponopono team, which was mentored by UH Mānoa Electrical Engineering Professor Wayne Shiroma, as well as by engineering teams from InDyne and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. The Boeing Corporation also provided support for this effort.