Irvine High School Students Are Ready to Launch First Cubesat into Space on June 22 with Rocket Lab

Monday, June 18, 2018

Main News Photo

Irvine CubeSat STEM Program to attempt the first successful launch of a high school student-built CubeSat in California and the West Coast.

WHAT: Over 150 students from six Irvine high schools have joined forces as part of the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program to attempt the first successful launch of a high school-built CubeSat in California and on the West Coast. One final phase remains for IRVINE01: the launch. The students packed up the completed CubeSat at the launch integrator, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc., a worldwide leader in nanosatellites, and it has been transported to New Zealand as part of US orbital launch provider, Rocket Lab’s, upcoming launch “It's Business Time.”

On June 22, the students, instructors, and supporters of the program will come together at Portola High School in Irvine to watch the launch live, and celebrate the final milestone in the students’ journey to assemble, test and launch a nanosatellite into orbit. The project is the first of its kind on the West Coast and, if successful, would be the first high school program in the Western U.S. to launch an operational CubeSat into orbit.

The launch mission, “It’s Business Time,” also marks, Huntington Beach-based, Rocket Lab’s first commercial launch of their innovative Electron rocket. Partnering with this local company has provided the students with an opportunity to learn about the production of the Electron launch vehicle first-hand. First and foremost an educational mission, the launch represents a major milestone for the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program.

The launch window is scheduled to open on Friday, June 22 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, the world’s only privately-owned and operated orbital launch facility. Once launched, students will attempt to make radio contact with the CubeSat to confirm the satellite has reached orbit and is functioning. Aboard IRVINE01 is a low-resolution camera that will take pictures of Venus, bright stars and other celestial objects. Data from these images can be used to calculate distances to planets and determine the pointing accuracy of the satellite.

Irvine CubeSat STEM Program was boosted by $150,000 in seed funding from Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF) to help start this multiyear STEM initiative. For the past three years, IPSF has continued its commitment to raise funds and administer the program each year. Typically, a program like this would be seen at NASA, or a handful of elite colleges and universities. Other corporate sponsors include: the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, Cisco, FivePoint,, Ingersoll-Rand/Trane, MEGGiTT Defense Systems, Inc., Microsemi, and Resilient. In addition to the funding, IPSF provides oversight, consultation, event management and administrative support of the program.

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WHEN: Friday, June 22, 2018 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Launch tentatively scheduled for 5:30 p.m.)

Media RSVP is required for all media covering Launch.

WHERE: Portola High School: 1001 Cadence, Irvine, CA 92618

WHY: The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program endeavors to provide STEM educational resources to high school students, with the intention of inspiring the next generation of innovative thinkers and an emphasis on creating opportunities for under-represented groups in STEM-related fields, including women and minorities. The project is the first of its kind in California and, if successful, would be the first high school program on the West Coast to launch an operational CubeSat into orbit.

IRVINE02 and IRVINE03, the next two missions of the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program, are already well underway and have been selected to participate in NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative to fly on upcoming NASA-sponsored missions. The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is one of the only high school-led groups chosen by NASA to participate in this prestigious program, alongside world class universities and research centers.


  • Interviews with students and teachers
  • Excited students celebrating the launch
  • Students presenting to guests about their experience of the program
  • Live feed of launch  
  • Interviews with Neda Eaton, president and CEO of Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF), and Roland Coelho, co-founder, VP Launch Services at Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc.

About Irvine CubeSat STEM Program

The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP) is a collaboration between IPSF, Irvine Unified School District and Tustin Unified School District to train and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. It is comprised of 150 students from six public high schools in the City of Irvine (Beckman, Irvine, Northwood, Portola, University, and Woodbridge) with the objective to assemble, test and operate a nano-satellite in low Earth orbit.

Through this project, students develop and practice STEM skills in technical documentation and communication, project management, hardware and software, mechanical and electrical subsystems, programming, radio and optical communications, and data analysis. Students gain technical skills through hands-on experience and mentorship from industry professionals, as well as invaluable soft skills such as communication, problem solving, and teamwork.

Once the CubeSat is successfully launched, schools will engage in a variety of orbital maneuvers and experiments, including operating the CubeSat to position the antennae, solar panels and camera for optimal operation. The CubeSat will also collect data that students can practice evaluating and share for further study.

The program addresses the need to meet the rising demand for a highly-qualified work force in growing STEM-related industries, while also creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM-related fields, including women and minorities.

Industry and university partners are supporting the program, because they view it as a training ground for the next generation of great minds in space science. Beyond high school, participants will be uniquely positioned to pursue post-secondary education and professional opportunities in a variety of science and space-related disciplines.

Student teams include: 

  • Beckman High School: Team Avionics
  • Woodbridge High School: Team Communications
  • Northwood High School: Team Power
  • Irvine High School: Team Propulsion
  • University High School: Team Prime
  • Portola High School: Team Biotech

    About Irvine Public Schools Foundation

Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of enriching the educational experience of each child in every school. Founded in 1996 by concerned parents and community leaders, IPSF sponsors enrichment programs and provides financial support to ensure educational excellence in Irvine schools. In addition, IPSF excels at uniting local corporate and community partners, parents and residents in raising funds to nurture student potential. Each year, IPSF provides millions of dollars in funding to Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, small-group learning, afterschool and summer programs, grants for classroom innovation, and support for mental health initiatives, athletic trainers and school nurses. For more information about IPSF, visit

Category: Partner News

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