Skip to content
Reading time: 3 minutes

A team of students from multiple University of Hawaiʻi campuses took first place in a rocketry competition held in Nevada in September. The UH Community Colleges’ Project Imua Mission 9 team won the extreme altitude hybrid motor competition with the launch of their 12-foot, eight-inch hybrid rocket, named “Apophis” after the Egyptian god of chaos.

People standing in front of a rocket
Project Imua team in Nevada, front right Nikki Arakawa (Photo credit: Tahoma Photography)

Students from Windward Community College originally designed and built this rocket for the Spaceport America Cup’s competition sponsored by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association that was to be held during the summer in New Mexico, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Honolulu Community College students designed an atmospheric sensing payload to be carried aboard Apophis.

The rocket and payload were finally launched in September 2021 in Black Rock, Nevada as part of the Association of Experimental Rocketry of the Pacific (AERO-PAC)’s competition. The Project Imua team won the altitude contest for the hybrid-motor class rockets after Apophis attained an apogee of 3,413 feet.

“I had actually never launched anything that big, so it was just so exciting to see it lift off the ground, go really high and then land as expected,” said UH Mānoa College of Engineering student Nikki Arakawa.

Windward CC rocketry team members Arakawa and Quinn O’Malley also each placed second in the Extreme Altitude Contest for the solid rockets (in different classes) that each built and launched at the AERO-PAC competition.

Windward CC graduate and UH Mānoa physics student Jared Estrada has been involved with Project Imua since 2019 and served as project lead for the Mission 9 rocket.

“People should know that it is a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in rocketry,” Estrada said. “It is an amazing opportunity and the team is very passionate and dedicated with what they do.”

The Project Imua team composed of 17 students and six mentors worked on the project for two years, due to pandemic related delays and cancellations.

Two people in a room with a rocket
Jared Estrada with mentor Jacob Hudson
Woman working on electronics
D‘Elle Martin works on the payload at Honolulu CC.

“Our students learn firsthand that rocket science is more than high tech and engineering,” said Project Imua Manager and Windward CC Professor Joe Ciotti. “‘To boldly go’ demands unwavering commitment, resilience and teamwork. The lessons learned on this mission will launch them on exciting careers.”

The two campuses are currently collaborating on Project Imua Mission 10 to develop a scientific payload that will be launched into sub-orbital flight this summer from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This will be Project Imua’s fourth payload launched into outer space. Mission 10 is funded by the Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium.

“We would really appreciate having more hands in our lab,” Arakawa said. “If anybody is willing to join, contact us because we really are looking to spread pretty much the joys of rocketry.”

By Kelli Abe Trifonovitch

Read more about Project Imua on UH News.

Back To Top