Modern space exploration has ushered in a new era of satellite technology focused on rapidly developing and launching miniature satellites known as CubeSats. In 2018, NASA selected the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and the Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL) to design and develop the Hyperspectral Thermal Imager (HyTI), a CubeSat about the size of a shoebox, as part of the In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) Program. In 2019, the HyTI Mission was selected to be launched through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.
Being that this mission is a critical project to HSFL, avionics engineer Amber Imai-Hong knew they needed a manufacturing partner who could quickly assemble high-quality, flight-ready boards. As Amber indicates “Tempo was our pick for space-rated circuit boards that work exactly as intended.”
HSFL Accelerates New Space Technology
The Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory was established in May 2007 within the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the College of Engineering (CoE). A key objective of HSFL is to accelerate the validation of new space technologies by developing, launching, and operating small spacecraft.
The Hyperspectral Thermal Imager (HyTI) CubeSat Mission will demonstrate how high spatial resolution, high spectral resolution, and long-wave infrared image data can be acquired to monitor water resources from a 6U CubeSat platform. Developed by innovative minds in nanosatellite technology, the HyTI CubeSat will provide valuable data on volcanic degassing, land surface temperature, and precision agriculture metrics.
Tempo was our pick for space-rated circuit boards that work exactly as intended.
- Amber Imai-Hong, Avionics Engineer and Program Manager
Strict Requirements for Space Rated Electronics
Imperative to the mission’s success is HyTI’s ability to operate correctly while withstanding the harsh space environment. With critical on-board data capture and processing technology, the strictest levels of quality and reliability were needed from a contract manufacturer (CM). Since issues in the satellite’s electronics cannot be fixed once it is launched, HSFL required a CM that could maintain the design intent while catching and correcting any manufacturing errors before shipment.
Given Tempo’s history of successful aerospace partnerships and space quality certifications, HSFL partnered with Tempo to assemble a camera link interface board for the HyTI payload, which requires impedance matching and precise fabrication. Once the design was ready to be built, Amber knew there was value in Tempo’s software-driven approach to electronics manufacturing.
“Any failures could seriously jeopardize the satellite’s performance and our science mission. Once I saw how Tempo used data and automation during manufacturing, I knew I could trust Tempo to get the job done right the first time,” Amber said.
Amber easily submitted her design files and BOM to the Tempo platform. The files were run through DFM checks to ensure manufacturability, and optimized for the fastest design, build, and test iteration. Once DFM was cleared, the design moved to assembly, with Tempo ensuring design intent was maintained.
Tempo completed the final inspection and shipped the assembled board to HSFL in less than a week. The fast turnaround time on the board provided valuable time to Amber and her team for tests and reworks. Working on a tight schedule, every day saved was crucial for this development. Seeing no failures during bring up, Amber knew she had made the right choice in partnering with Tempo.
Amber stated, “Tempo’s quality and speed was incredible. Not having to worry about whether the board would function properly gave us extra time to focus on integration and testing.”
Hyperspectral Thermal Imager, or HyTI
The HyTI is expected to deliver in the fourth quarter of 2022, with launch scheduled for the first quarter of 2023. As exciting as this project has been, HSFL’s work in CubeSat technology stretches even further.
In 2020, NASA awarded HSFL a $500,000 grant as part of their Artemis Student Challenges initiative. Part of the wider NASA Artemis missions, this initiative aims to both create technological breakthroughs in SmallSat technology and develop educational opportunities for students in Hawaii.
“HSFL has big goals of doing great research through collaborations and training the next generation of aerospace engineers,” Amber said. “I’m excited to see our satellites launch, and help teach the next generation of Hawaii’s students about the latest satellite technologies.”
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