MOREHEAD, Ky. — A satellite that Morehead State University students and staff built will soon head to the moon on the most powerful spacecraft ever made. The Lunar IceCube, engineered at Morehead State University, will launch aboard NASA’s Artemis I.
Once launched, the Lunar IceCube will orbit the moon looking for water. Ben Malphrus, executive director of Morehead State University’s Space Science Center, said they know there is water on the moon. The Lunar IceCube will help determine how much, and where it is.
“To understand where water is on the moon is extremely important for future use of the moon, human use of the moon specifically,” Malphrus said.
NASA said the goal of the Artemis program is to return people to the moon, but this time to stay. Understanding the dynamic of the moon will be vital to that effort.
Working on a NASA mission is nothing new for Morehead State students and staff. In fact, the university has taken part in launching seven satellites into space so far. This one has a different weight to it, though.
Malphrus has seen how the program has transformed over the past 32 years. While he is proud of all the missions students and staff here have taken part in, he says the Lunar IceCube is the flagship.
This will be the university’s first satellite to the moon. The others have been Earth orbiters.
“It’s the first wave of interplanetary small sats in the history of the world, and we have one of them. We are really excited about this one,” Malphrus said.
Students at Morehead State University were able to get hands-on experience building the satellite, which is now with NASA. Once launched, their work will continue. About four hours after launch, Morehead State students and staff will start collecting data from the Lunar IceCube and five other NASA satellites.
They are able to do that through a dish on campus. It allows them to send commands to the satellites in space, as well as collect data from them.
Chloe Hart was a student at Morehead State University, and now works there as a faculty member. She says this hands-on experience sets students above the competition when looking for jobs.
“I remember going to different conferences and talking about all of the experience that I have received and people being shocked that I am an undergraduate student and I am able to touch the equipment and the flight hardware that will be going to be going into space one day,” Hart said. “People are just blown away by the opportunities we are able to afford our students here.”
This program at Morehead State has 100% career placement among graduates.
The Artemis I does not have a set launch date at this point, though it could launch as soon as late June.