UH is developing technology for future Artemis missions to the Moon and Mars

Box with green sensors
CubeSat kit

NASAThe next launch attempt for the Artemis I mission will take place on November 16 at 1:04 am European daylight saving time (November 15, 8:04 p.m HST) and University of Hawaii at Mānoa, researchers have developed new technology to aid the Artemis Project.

AH Mānoa researchers from the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) developed “foundation enablers” that will further develop the project’s satellite infrastructure for a longer presence on the moon. Satellites are important communication devices for transmitting information from space to earth. While the technology is not used for the current Artemis I mission, NASA financed it AH Research to develop the technology for use in future missions while providing a training ground for aspiring middle school, high school, and university scientists.

Artemis I is an unmanned mission to launch a rocket that will carry the Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth to thoroughly test its system before future flights with astronauts. Artemis is part of the next era of human exploration of a sustained presence on the moon in preparation for missions to Mars.

“The Artemis program symbolizes a rebirth of the American space program, inspired by the Apollo program, which was arguably the culmination of the United States’ manned space program,” he said Frances Zhu, HIGP assistant professor. “NASA invests in technology, but also in the next generation of space scientists and engineers, which they call the Artemis generation. That NASA A grant we received to build these satellites made it possible AH to take and strengthen a leadership role in the development of aerospace educational tools AH‘s efforts in establishing an aerospace engineering program.

Artemis CubeSat project

Related: AH received $500,000 in May 2020 to develop small satellite training kits

AH Mānoa was one of six universities that awarded space scholarships NASA in 2020 as part of the Artemis Student Challenge program. Through the $750,000 grant, Zhu and her team developed low-cost CubeSat kits, which typically cost between $50,000 and $500,000, for about $5,000 per kit. The 1U kit includes onboard computing, communications components, dynamic sensors, an infrared camera and power supply system, as well as comprehensive online spacecraft mission design learning materials.

Through an additional $450,000 grant from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief governor. David Ige in 2021, the team was also able to expand their teaching materials, content and modifications to the kit for Hawaii Public, private, and charter school students in grades 6–12. The kits focus on educating and training the “Artemis Generation,” the workforce that will design, build, fly and operate spacecraft that are part of the Artemis program. The small satellites themselves can be launched around the Earth or the Moon to support Artemis missions.

Person in white uniform
Frances Zhu at the Astrofein Attitude Control Testbed for testing satellite control systems.

NASA‘s chief economist hopes each state will launch a small satellite and Hawaii supports this mission by leading the design, manufacture and curriculum of small satellite kits. Once student teams have a kit in their classroom, they can design a space mission, design the satellite payload and body, and modify the kit to build this spacecraft.

“Building an undergraduate spacecraft is a rare opportunity that gives participating students a head start on real space applications, making them more competitive in the economic market and benefiting the technological advancement of the space industry,” Zhu said. “Although student satellites are unlikely to work the first time, the experience of designing, building, and potentially flying satellites is an immensely educational and fun activity that leads to greater space missions.”

So far, the team has distributed three CubeSat kits to Windward Community College, Oklahoma State University and Cal Poly Pomona. The team plans to ship 22 kits to colleges on all major Hawaiian islands and six other states by the end of the year.

For more information on the Artemis CubeSat project, see Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory website.

-Through Marc Arakaki

People on a zoom screen
AH Mānoa’s Artemis team, made up of students, staff and faculty.

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