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The First Steps Towards Space Settlements: Robotically Constructed Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing Pads

by Brea Aamoth on May 26th, 2016

‘Imiloa Presents Rodrigo Romo PISCES Program Manager

Date: Fri. June 17
Time: 7:00pm
Cost: $10, $8 for members

Before humans settle on the moon or on another planet like Mars, the proper infrastructure will need to be built to ensure survival and protection of valuable equipment. Join us at ‘Imiloa’s June Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, June 17 at 7:00 p.m. with Rodrigo Romo, PISCES Program Manager.


Because of the thin atmosphere and low gravity in places like Mars and the moon, it is important to take into account what debris and dust will result from flying and landing rocket engines in outer space. Rocket engines create a high velocity stream of dust particles which can travel at speeds over 2,000 m/s. Any equipment or hardware in the vicinity can be catastrophically damaged by the abrasive nature of these dust particles. As such, it is of upmost importance that the space equipment is built to withstand these powerful impacts.


In order to protect equipment at the construction site, one of the first things that will be constructed are Vertical Takeoff / Vertical Landing (VTVL) Pads that allow hardware delivery spacecrafts to land and take off in the future space settlement without causing any damage to other assets on the site.


PISCES, in collaboration with NASA KSC, Honeybee Robotics, Hawaii County Department of R&D and ODG-Canada worked on the design and construction of a VTVL Pad in Kea‘au using only local materials. The project included building a lunar analog, leveling the area and placing pavers to create a landing bulls-eye, spreading a protective layer surrounding the bulls-eye and finally testing the design and materials with a 960-pound rocket engine test.


Rodrigo Romo originates from Guadalajara, Mexico where he obtained his degree in Chemical Engineering. He joined PISCES in 2014 as a Project Manager and is responsible for overseeing the VTVL project from start to finish.


‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy. Audiences will view prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year. Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Member Level Discounts: $8 for Kupuna, Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.

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