One partner is Sandia National Laboratory, which is second only to NASA in the number of launches it has performed, many of them from the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii.
The first mission of the HSFL is called LEONIDAS, the Low Earth-Orbiting Nanosatellite Integrated Defense Autonomous System. Its objective is to conduct two launches from PMRF using low-cost systems and train the workers to prepare for the launches. “Fundamentally,” said Dr. Taylor, “we are learning to increase access to space and get there in a different way.”
The project is part of a congressionally directed program funded through the Operationally Responsive Space Office of the DoD. The space flight laboratory is the prime contractor and has multiple partners. One of those is Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which had donated a scout rail launcher, rebuilt by HSFL. Other partners include the Aerojet Corp., manufacturer of solid rocket motor parts, the PMRF on Kauai, White Sands Missile Range, NASA/Ames Research Center, and Sandia National Laboratory. The program will use a SPARK Launch Vehicle, a three-stage solid propellant motor stack redesigned from Sandia’s Super-Strypi to reduce cost, simplify launch, and increase reliability.
The Goal of a Complete Satellite Launch System
Eventually, Dr. Taylor said, HSFL aims to provide a complete satellite system and to spin off niche companies. The first of these will be a partnership between UH and Aerojet for launch services. The future may bring small satellite development companies or others in high-tech fields. It will maintain critical support facilities at UH, such as the clean room, thermo-vacuum chamber, and vibration chamber for satellite testing and spin balance. These will be for use by both the university and small businesses in the area, as well as provide “an unprecedented educational opportunity, from kindergarten through graduate school, in all aspects of space mission operations.” HSFL will partner with Kauai Community College in program management and telemetry and with Windward Community College in their education and outreach through the aerospace center. In the future, a partnership may be added with the University of Hawaii at Hilo in software and automation. In addition, the space grant program allows system-wide undergraduate and high school access through the extension program funded by NASA. The community colleges will provide the technical associate degrees and the four-year colleges the baccalaureate and graduate degrees.
An additional partnership is being formed between UH and Aerojet Corp. “We’re planning a 501(c)3 limited liability corporation with many benefits for each side. Aerojet will increase revenues by selling more rockets. It also hopes to set up a skunkworks for R&D in Hawaii. UH not only will gain workforce training, but will be able to fund its own science and engineering mission. The company has told us it wants to lower its costs by decreasing their overhead,” he said. “That’s a real driver. We have a price line to meet and they’re prepared to