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Cutting-edge nanosatellite technologies attract aerospace companies to Kentucky

Students and staff assemble the Cosmic X-Ray Background Nanosatellite-2 in the Spacecraft Assembly and Integration Facility at Morehead State University.

The Space Science Center at Morehead State University has played a role in establishing aerospace as the number one export industry in Kentucky through workforce development and through its contributions to research and development (R&D) in astronautics. In addition to producing graduates with exceptional skills to support the aerospace and defense workforce, Morehead State is internationally recognized for developing some of the world’s most cutting-edge nanosatellite technologies. These small satellites range from the size of loaf of bread to a small suitcase and orbit Earth in formations. Morehead State University is at the forefront of this emerging industry.

Morehead State faculty and students have built and launched six satellites since 2006 (KySat-2, CXBN, Eagle-1, Eagle-2, UniSat-5 and CXBN-2). These missions have ranged from technology demonstrations to astrophysics research and have been very successful, gaining international attention. The Lunar IceCube mission, a NASA mission led by Morehead State and currently in development, was selected for launch on Exploration Mission One (EM-1), the maiden voyage of the Space Launch System (SLS). When SLS launches in 2020, it will be the most powerful rocket ever created. Lunar IceCube is designed to prospect for water ice and other lunar volatiles from lunar orbit.

The Space Science Center has attracted aerospace and telecommunications companies to create subsidiaries in Eastern Kentucky and has inspired small aerospace start-ups. Additionally, the 21-meter antenna system is set to become the first non-NASA affiliated node on the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN), providing services for NASA and commercial space ventures.

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