Four students holding a rocket
UH Mānoa engineering students Adam James Macalalag, Eric Takahashi, Efren Enriquez and Matthew Nakamura

Six of the nine University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering students who comprise the Project Hōkūlele team, are readying to launch their rocket and payloads in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Their launch is scheduled for Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

The Spaceport America Cup competition is hosted by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association. By participating in the competition, the students will gain valuable insight and hands-on experience in the field of aerospace technology.

Team Hōkūlele’s 11.5-foot rocket is named Kahekili. There are two experimental payloads.

One is a 3U CubeSat shell with an onboard computer system to determine whether the onboard computer system will be able to withstand launch forces. According to NASA, CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. CubeSats are built to standard dimensions or “U” of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm and typically weigh less than 1.33 kg or 3 lbs per U.

The second payload is an array of transducers (a device that converts energy from one form to another) that will measure the vibrations of the rocket body during flight. The data will be used to better understand the forces acting on a rocket during flight, which can be applied to future rocket construction.

Project Hōkūlele received $10,000 in funding from the UH Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which covered the cost of the rocket and some travel expenses, along with $1,000 from the College of Engineering, which covered additional travel expenses.

The students got class credit through the UH Aerospace Technologies Vertically Integrated Project (VIP). UH is part of the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Consortium, which consists of more than 30 institutions worldwide. VIP programs seek to foster long-term, in-depth, project-based learning to engage students and better prepare them for future careers.

Spaceport America Cup offers real-world launch opportunities

The Spaceport America Cup offers collegiate rocketeers a unique opportunity to present the results of their research and development to peers and prospective employers, put their designs to the test by attempting launch under real-world conditions and network with peers from universities across the country and industry sponsors.

The competition gives students the opportunity to launch a rocket that they would otherwise have been unable to due to restrictions, such as limitations on motor size, in their home states.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

The rocket Kahekili
The 11.5-foot rocket “Kahekili” in Las Cruces, New Mexico.