UH talks with PMRF could lead to satellite launch

University of Hawai‘i representatives yesterday initiated talks with the Pacific Missile Range Facility that could see a student-built satellite launching from Kaua‘i by 2009, said Stu Burley, a consultant working with the university.

“It looks like we may have a small satellite launch out of PMRF or Ni‘ihau,” Burley said.

If the collaboration goes forward, the initial launch could push a satellite about the size of a small microwave into space, said Luke Flynn, director of the Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

And that would just be the tip of the iceberg, he said.

“The goal is to develop the workforce over there,” he said. “The idea is to provide more K-12 opportunities for technology on Kaua‘i.”

The island could become the focal point of university satellite launches, he said.

Universities have been building small satellites equipped to monitor temperature, weather, ozone and other elements found in the upper atmosphere, Burley said.

“These satellites are sitting on shelves,” he said. “Now there are a lot of satellites that need to be launched. I’ve had a dream to do this since the early 90s.”

If the UH program sees success, other universities could bring student satellites to the island to launch, creating a high-tech growth opportunity for the county, Burley said.

A satellite launch would mark new territory for the range, said Tom Clements, spokesman.

Targets in anti-ballistic missile tests conducted on the range can enter space, he said.

To go forward, students must develop a proposal that can meet environmental standards set by the federal government and present it to a board for review, he said.

The board will work with students to address any problems and then partner with UH representatives to present the proposal to the captain of the range.

“If everything goes right, there should be a 2009 launch,” Burley said.

• Charlotte Woolard, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or cwoolard@kauaipubco.com.


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