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student working on satellite
A CREPES student tests components of the satellite that has been selected for launch by NASA.

A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student group was selected as one of 10 small research satellite developers to launch their satellite into space as early as 2025 through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. This is the second project led by students in the earth and planetary exploration technology (EPET) certificate program to be granted an opportunity to take their satellite project to the deployment phase. The first student-built satellite was selected in April 2023.

“The two groups of EPET students securing opportunities to launch their satellite with NASA highlights both the science and design strengths of the student research groups, and the quality of the EPET program enabling students to invent, design, and build spacecraft with exciting science and educational outcomes,” said Peter Englert, professor in the Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) and EPET course coordinator.

students working on satellite
Students test components of their small satellite. (Photo credit: Sapphira Akins)

Started in 2020 by HIGP and the Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), the EPET certificate program is open to undergraduate students majoring in the physical sciences, such as chemistry, earth sciences, physics or astrophysics, and engineering disciplines. The program has empowered undergraduates through hands-on, student-driven development of science payloads and building of small satellites, called CubeSats, that can be launched into low Earth orbit.

“Our team is very excited to have this opportunity and grateful for all the help we have had to make it to this point,” said Sapphira Akins, CubeSat Relativistic Electron and Proton Energy Separator (CREPES) project manager and graduate student in mechanical engineering and aerospace. “We can’t wait to have something we built operating in space within the next few years!”

The CREPES mission is a student-led project that began at UH Mānoa in 2022 and aims to study solar energetic particle events and increase knowledge of the Sun. When they launch their satellite with NASA, CREPES will fly a new type of micropattern gaseous detector to amplify the signals of solar radiation. Data obtained from these measurements is expected to contribute to the understanding of space weather and development of space climatology.

“The student research success is an outcome of the high quality of the EPET curriculum, student engagement with the research topics they have chosen, and the resources provided by HIGP, the SOEST dean’s office, Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program of UH Mānoa, and private donor support,” said Englert.

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