Hawaii signs NASA pact
• Photo gallery: Hawaii, NASA sign deal for satellite
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawai'i students and professors will help develop a small satellite to study coral reefs as part of a new and unique agreement between NASA and the state, officials announced yesterday.
The three-year Space Act Agreement, the first of its kind between the federal space agency and a state, involves no money changing hands. But Gov. Linda Lingle and S. Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said it establishes a partnership that initially will lead to development of a 150-pound satellite "the size of a bread box" that will take infrared images of coral reefs and other earthly features.
The cost of the Hawai'iSat project will be "tens of millions of dollars" compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to develop much larger satellites, Worden said.
Future projects under the agreement likely will include research and education projects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — including robotics initiatives — designed to produce the next generation of space technology and the people to do the work.
The Space Act Agreement gives NASA and Hawai'i officials broad areas to research.
Basically, Worden said, if "it's not prohibited by law, you can do it."
Yesterday's signing of the Space Act Agreement comes before tomorrow's expected announcement by President Obama outlining the nation's new direction in space exploration, which could include a manned trip to Mars, space colonization and better tracking of killer asteroids, Worden said.
Whatever Obama announces, Worden said, public and private partnership ventures in Hawai'i are likely to play critical roles because of the new agreement.
"It doesn't get much more exciting than this," Lingle said. "... This will continue the very Hawaiian nature of exploration."
Lingle continues to fill academic, public and private positions on the 16-member Aerospace Advisory Committee, created last year to advise and assist state officials in promoting Hawai'i's aerospace opportunities.
NASA already maintains a satellite tracking station on Kaua'i and has a long history of conducting deep-space observations from the advanced telescopes atop Haleakalā and Mauna Kea, the agency said. It also supports educational programs through the Hawai'i Space Grant Consortium at UH.
A specific subagreement signed yesterday means that dozens of Hawai'i college students will travel to NASA's Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale to help develop the Hawai'iSat satellite, which could launch as early as 2012 or 2013, Worden said.
The Hawai'iSat project will begin at UH's Hawai'i Space Flight Laboratory, where engineering and science students will learn how to design and build small satellites.
At the Ames Research Center, the students and professors will work with scientists and engineers to design, integrate and manage small satellites and connect with other small satellite contractors in NASA's Research Park, such as Santa Clara University.
Eventually, state and NASA officials hope to have a Hawai'i-based program for small spacecraft missions and a satellite project developed and managed by students.
Worden hopes to expand the satellite project to include hundreds of Hawai'i middle and high school students, especially disadvantaged and Native Hawaiian children.
"We're very anxious to get younger students involved, especially Hawaiian students," Worden said. "We want them to get excited about what you can do in space."