A group of aspiring scientists from the University of Hawaii’s community college system visited NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia this month as part of ongoing preparations for the August launch of a scientific payload they designed.
Through Project Imua — a joint faculty-student initiative funded through a two-year $500,000 grant from NASA — 16 students from Kauai Community College, Honolulu Community College, Kapiolani Community College and Windward Community College were given the opportunity to design and build data-collecting tools that will analyze the intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation before it enters Earth’s atmosphere.
The UHCC payload will be loaded onto a rocket and shot 100 miles into space, then deployed along with four other payloads designed by students at mainland universities. The Hawaii students are the only community college students participating in the launch, which will take place on Aug. 11.
During their visit to Wallops Flight Facility, the students viewed an early morning rocket launch and learned about pre-launch preparations and protocols.
"They were dealing with university students who were several years more advanced and were holding their own in concept discussions and work ethic," said Jacob Hudson, a WCC faculty member and associate director of the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, in a release.
The students also put their payload, which is housed in a small aluminum box, through a series of rigorous durability tests to ensure that it will function properly not just during its scheduled 20-minute deployment, but also during its super-heated descent and its final salty plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.