Above: CubeSats, a class of nanosatellites, use a standardized size and form factor. They were developed as a cost-effective platform for education and space exploration. Image courtesy of NASA.

A team at University of Hawaii at Mānoa will receive $500,000 from NASA to design and develop a fully functioning small satellite kit and course for undergraduate students as part of the Artemis Student Challenges. The project will produce a 1U CubeSat hardware and software design together with a lesson plan for lectures and hands-on lab work.

“This topic is not typically taught and further, a spacecraft lab course is extremely rare,” Principal Investigator Dr. Frances Zhu wrote in the project proposal. “By reinforcing the theoretical curriculum with direct ties to hardware, students can truly engrain the subject matter learned from a conventional classroom setting, a feeling so often felt in classes solely based on lectures.”

Anatomy of the Hiapo 1U, the first community-built satellite assembled by students working with Hawaii Space Grant Consortium (HSGC) and the Hawaii Space Flight Lab (HSFL). Courtesy photo.

The project will commence in two phases. Phase 1 will develop the kit’s hardware and software including onboard computing, RF communications, sensors, a basic infrared camera, and an electrical power system. The cubesat will have software for telemetry, software visualization and development—all for less than $5,000. Phase 1 will also focus on creating an online lab course teaching students how to assemble and program the kit. The goal is to give students around the country access to a standardized aerospace design program with online support—a rare opportunity for undergraduates. Phase 2 will include the development of a classroom and online spacecraft mission design course using the kits. An additional component of the project will focus on outreach, bringing extensive workshops to community colleges throughout Hawaii that place emphasis on Native Hawaiians and other underserved groups.

The UH Mānoa team includes Dr. Zhu, Amber Imai-Hong, Yosef Ben Gershom, Kasey Hagi, Dr. Miguel Nunes and Dr. Trevor Sorensen. Phase 1 of the project began May 1 and will continue through the end of 2020. The team has recruited a group of three students who will share their research findings at the Undergraduate Fellowship and Traineeship Symposium.

Several institutions are partnered in the project including: multiple colleges in the UH system and in Washington state, PISCES, and the Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program. NASA has awarded a total of nearly $2.4 million to universities as part of the Artemis Student Challenges, a new initiative to inspire the next generation of astronauts who will explore the Moon and beyond.

Above: Students, faculty and staff for the Artemis CubeSat kit project attend a kick-off meeting via Zoom last month. (L-R): Amber Imai-Hong, Frances Zhu, Miguel Nunes, Chris Amendola, Danielle Young, Kasey Hagi, Skyler Konno, Mitchell Matsumori-Kelly, Yosef Gershom and Kevin Williams. Courtesy image.