Just in time for moon landing anniversary, Morehead satellite goes on display

Prof. Grupe holds the Lunar IceCube

MOREHEAD, Ky. (WTVQ)- Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky in Lexington has a new exhibit on display, highlighting Morehead State University’s space system engineering programs.

Featured in the exhibit is a model of the Lunar IceCube satellite, designed, built, and tested by MSU students.

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The IceCube satellite will launch in October 2020 as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (Next STEP). It will collect data about water, ice or other resources on the moon.

It is one of 13 CubeSats scheduled to launch in October. Morehead State says CubeSats are no bigger than a loaf of bread.

They will launch on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which MSU says is the largest, most powerful rocket ever built.

According to Morehead, that same mission will carry the Orion capsule, which NASA hopes will take humans back to the moon for the first time since the Appollo 17 mission in 1972.

Dr. Dirk Grupe, MSU assistant professor of astrophysics and space systems engineering says if Lunar IceCube can find water on the moon, it could help produce rocket fuel there.

“We can use the moon as a gas station so to speak,” he said. “The moon will be a stepping stool to get to Mars eventually,” Grupe said.

Students’ work isn’t over. Grupe says students will help decode the data it sends back.

“Our students will be downloading the data and sending commands for all the 13 Cubesat missions that will go on the SLS in 2020,” Grupe said.

“We are currently in the process of becoming a part of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). NASA uses this network for all interplanetary missions, so like New Horizon that went to Pluto in 2015 and even the Voyager missions from the 1970s. We have a 21-meter space tracking antenna here at MSU, which easily can reach the moon to transfer commands and receive the data from the missions. We have a lot of experience being the ground stations for several missions. We have a number of students that get trained in becoming a ground station operator.”