By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii plans to put a satellite into orbit from the Navy’s missile testing facility on Kauai later this year in what will be the first launch of a satellite from the islands.
The military has fired missiles into space from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, but the payloads haven’t remained in space long.
Faculty and students designed the 110-pound satellite, called HiiakaSat. Kauai Community College students will operate the command and control ground station.
The program run by the Hawaii Space Flight Lab conducts science and engineering research and provides job training in unmanned space flight.
UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said the school is helping to develop Hawaii’s space science enterprise.
“We hope our graduates will go to work for related research and technology companies right here in Hawaii or will go on to form their own space-science related businesses,” she said in a statement.
The Hawaii Space Flight Lab got its start with funding from a 2007 defense appropriations bill.
Kauai is the launch site because Hawaii’s congressional delegation wanted the satellite to take off from the islands, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility is the only launch site in the state, University of Hawaii Innovation Initiative spokeswoman Kelli Trifonovich said Wednesday.
The lab’s director, Luke Flynn, said the university would like to launch small satellites on a regular basis. He says this will attract companies looking for affordable ways to test space technology.
The satellite will be in low-earth orbit for one-to-two years.
This first launch will demonstrate how using a new launch vehicle can reduce mission cost. Trifonovich said another satellite launch planned for next year or the year after will be used to study coral reefs from space.
Hawaii’s location closer to the equator than mainland states gives it a competitive advantage in the space launch business. That’s because the Earth spins faster at the equator, giving rockets a boost in reaching orbit.