Home » Kentucky spacecraft Unbridled Spirit achieves Earth orbit

Kentucky spacecraft Unbridled Spirit achieves Earth orbit

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2012) — A team led by a Morehead State University professor has launched and deployed the first satellite entirely built in Kentucky and successfully placed in orbit, Kentucky Space LLC announced today.

The Cosmic X-Ray Background Nanosatellite (CXBN), code name “Unbridled Spirit,” is a loaf-of-bread-sized, five-pound “CubeSat” class spacecraft designed to be one of the first such “CubeSats” to undertake a significant science mission.

A CubeSat is a very small — generally 1 to 2 kilograms — spacecraft co-invented by Professor Bob Twiggs, formerly at Stanford University and now with Morehead State University and Kentucky Space.

The primary purpose of its mission is to materially increase the precision of measurements of the Cosmic X-Ray Background emanating from the explosive birth of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago.

The satellite was launched at 5:39 p.m. Thursday, aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as a secondary payload on the Department of Defense NROL-36 mission.

The Kentucky satellite was selected by NASA in 2011 for this flight opportunity through NASA’s Educational Launch of a Nanosatellite (ELaNa) program.

The satellite was built in Kentucky at Morehead State. Mission partners with the univeristy were Kentucky Space, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, Noqsi Aerospace, Black Forest Engineering and Little H-Bar Ranch in California.

Dr. Ben Malphrus (chair of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at Morehead) serves as mission director of the project, leading the team to completion and delivery of the satellite on the extremely compressed one-year timeline. Dr. Garrett Jernigan, formerly of the University of California at Berkeley and currently with Little H-Bar Ranch, is the lead project scientist and designed the science array. Kevin Brown, assistant professor of space science and Tyler Rose, student engineering team leader, led a team of engineers and scientists at the Space Science Center in designing, building and testing the satellite.

“The remarkable thing is that all of the spacecraft systems were built at the Space Science Center, largely by undergraduate students, who performed the engineering design, machined the mechanical structures, built the electronics, and wrote the flight software,” Malphrus said.

The  ground operations for the mission will be handled by the Mission Operations Center at Morehead State University.

Kentucky Space and its partners, since its inception in 2007, have flown a variety of spacecraft and experiments, including several space shuttle flights, and developed the first CubeLabs on the International Space Station. CXBN is the first satellite built in Kentucky to successfully reach Earth orbit.

“The success of  Unbridled Spirit, represents a significant achievement for Kentucky as well as the small group of scientists, engineers and students who designed and carried out this impressive mission … and represents another major step in the creation of a dynamic entrepreneurial space industry in Kentucky,” said Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and CEO of Kentucky Space.

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