Our Islands, Our Future
HyTI Launches!

HyTI Launches!

Past participants of Maui Economic Development Board’s EMER-GEN program, Amber Imai-Hong, program manager and avionics engineer at Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL), and Yosef Ben Gershom, operations manager at HSFL, are thrilled about HSFL’s unprecedented opportunity for hands-on involvement in space exploration. Their Hyperspectral Thermal Imager (HyTI) satellite was launched by NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) and was recently deployed from the ISS for use.

The imager will gather valuable data for understanding Earth’s surface processes, including volcanic activity, wildfires, and soil moisture levels. Led by Principal Investigator Robert Wright, director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP), the project began in October 2018 with funding from NASA’s In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies Program.

Imai-Hong recalled, “When we started the HyTI project in 2018, we did not imagine how much our team would have to overcome or how much we would learn along the way. Developing one of the most advanced imaging cubesats was challenging, and it feels great to know we are operating HyTI on orbit!”

Gershom explained, “The mission has been an incredible opportunity for training our local aerospace workforce and for students. It provides real-world experience working with professional engineers on a NASA mission with real requirements and hardware. That is why we work on complex projects here at UH,” he said, quoting JFK, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

HSFL trains dozens of MEDB’s STEMworks™ interns and alumni. Gershom added, “It takes a multitude of different people, in different fields, to develop a mission such as this. I see this NASA mission as another steppingstone for UH and Hawaiʻi to become more noticed in the broader space community. I hope it will get the word out locally that people can stay in Hawaiʻi and work on incredible space projects if that is their passion. This mission shows that talent exists throughout the islands and that we can provide opportunities for people to stay and work where they grew up. This is a big step for UH and for the Hawaiʻi aerospace community.”

We are proud of our EMER-GEN friends, the team of students, researchers, and UH faculty involved in this mission. We are thrilled to watch the HyTI satellite begin the next phase of processing high-resolution thermal images.
Leslie Wilkins, President & CEO, Maui Economic Development Board