Kentucky is building a lunar spacecraft. "Lunar IceCube" has won a coveted spot as a payload on the first launch of NASA's new 38-story deep space rocket, Space Launch System, or SLS, in 2018.
Often referred to as "cubesats" and flown in low Earth orbit, the use of tiny spacecraft like Lunar IceCube in deep space is a brand new development. Missions to destinations elsewhere in the solar system are now on being planned to take advantage of their small size and rapidly growing technical and scientific sophistication.
Lunar IceCube has won a coveted slot as one of 12 diminutive secondary payloads to deploy during the first planned flight in 2018 of NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) and the second for its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle — an event that scientists say will signal a paradigm shift in interplanetary science.
Morehead State University in Kentucky is leading the six-unit (6-U) CubeSat mission....
The craft will prospect for lunar volatiles and water during its six months in lunar orbit. Morehead State University will track the craft using its 21 meter steerable radio dish (pictured above) located on campus, just outside the university's new Space Science Center.
Morehead will work with partners at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Massachusetts-based Busek Company.
Thanks to organizations like Kentucky Space, its commercial spinoff, Space Tango, and the Exomedicine Institute, Kentucky has attracted attention for its fast developing expertise in cubesats. Morehead State University has been crucial to those efforts.