Scientists at Morehead State University’s Space Center are hoping that success breeds success, and that last fall’s successful launching of the first satellite completely designed and built in Kentucky will lead to the launching of a series of small satellites under the director of the MSU Space Center. If so, MSU will be able to offer space science students hands-on training and experience that is available at only a handful of campuses in the United States.
To be sure, the MSU-built satellite launched last September as part of the secondary payload on a NASA rocket is small, only about the size of a loaf of bread. But the small CXBN satellite makes pace accessible and affordable for small universities like MSU and for the private sector.
While the MSU Space Center gained a measure of prestige and recognition by successfully putting its first satellite into orbit, the CXBN has not performed as well as hoped while orbiting the Earth. While the satellite was a success in terms of packaging the technology and getting it into orbit, it has failed to deliver measurements as precise as needed, said Space Center Director Ben Malphrus.
But the first satellite’s shortcomings have become a learning experience for MSU scientists and their students. Scientists are designing a revised and improved CXBN that they hope will provide more precise measurements,
In fact, Malphrus envisions a series of satellites being built in Morehead being launched to data scientists would use to produce the “most precise measurement ever made of the diffuse X-ray background emanating from the early universe.”
It probably will be another two years before the next Kentucky-built satellite is ready to be launched. In the meantime, scientists at the MSU Space Center will be working eliminate the shortcoming of the first satellite and sharing what they learn with their students. Morehead State is the only university in Kentucky and one of only a handful of schools in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in space science.
The long-range goal of the satellites MSU hopes to put into orbit is mapping the entire sky. It likely will take decades to accomplish that. In the meantime, MSU students will be using the Space Center and its satellites to receive an first-rate education.
Who would have ever thought a small university in the eastern Kentucky hills would be a leader in mapping a universe that seemingly has no end?