Start-up Mahina Aerospace named finalist for Tech Entrepreneur of the Year

Mahina Aerospace, a technology start-up created by a team from the Hawai‘i Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, was a finalist for the 2024 Hawai‘i Venture Capital Association’s Tech Entrepreneur of the Year and received $10,000 for winning the 2023 Tech Connect Space Innovation pitch challenge near Washington, DC. 

The mission of Mahina Aerospace is to lead the way in accessible and innovative solutions within the technology field of small satellites, called CubeSats, propelling advancements in space exploration through a low-cost CubeSat kit. 

“Being named a finalist for the Tech Entrepreneur of the Year category at the Hawai‘i Entrepreneur Awards is a source of great pride for Mahina Aerospace,” said Amber Imai-Hong, chief executive officer of Mahina Aerospace, and avionics engineer and program manager at HSFL in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “As an early-stage startup, we deeply appreciate the recognition and support from individuals who recognize the significance of our work.”

The start-up team includes Imai-Hong; chief operating officer and HSFL software engineer Luke Clements; chief technical officer and HSFL systems integrator Chris Amendola; and technical advisor and SOEST assistant researcher Frankie Zhu. 

In November 2023, at the Tech Connect Space Innovation Challenge in National Harbor, MD, Mahina Aerospace was one of 22 finalists selected to complete a five-minute pitch in front of judges from the aerospace and venture capital industries. They were one of the five winners of $10,000 prizes. 

Possibilities of space innovation

In Fall 2022, Mahina Aerospace was selected to join the second UH innovation incubator HITIDE cohort. This novel 24-month entrepreneurial program offers up to $50,000 in seed funding, customized education, mentorship and resources tailored to the unique needs of academic entrepreneurs to help them translate and advance UH-developed, impact-driven technologies to solve real-world problems. 

The team aims to streamline space missions by cutting costs and expediting technology readiness for their clients. They aspire to create a world where access to space is within reach for everyone, thereby redefining the possibilities of space innovation.

They are currently working to release a second version of HokuSat 1U, an optimized 1U CubeSat that is designed for spaceflight.