Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

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September 14, 2012

Kentucky-built satellite reaches earth orbit

Sept. 14, 2012 — MOREHEAD, Ky.---Morehead State University and its partners have announced the launch and on-orbit deployment of the first satellite entirely built in Kentucky that was successfully launched into Earth orbit. The Cosmic X-Ray Background Nanosatellite (CXBN) is a loaf of bread sized, five pound nanosatellite designed to be one of the first “cubesats” to undertake a significant science mission. The goal of the CXBN mission is to significantly increase the precision of measurements of the Cosmic X-Ray Background emanating from the explosive birth of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago. Measurements made by the satellite’s X-ray detector will constrain models that attempt to explain the relative contribution of proposed sources lending insight into the underlying physics of the early universe.


The satellite launched at 5:38 p.m. on Sept. 13 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as a secondary payload on the Department of Defense NROL-36 mission. The defense satellite and eight smaller satellites collectively referred to as OUTSat (Operationally Unique Technology Satellite) were lofted to a 500 km orbit above the Earth on an Atlas V rocket.


CXBN was selected by NASA in 2011 for the flight opportunity through NASA’s Educational Launch of a Nanosatellite (ELaNa) program. The satellite was entirely built in Kentucky at Morehead State University, and its payload, an innovative Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride X-ray detector, referred to as the science array, was built at Black Forest Engineering in Colorado.


Students and faculty of the Morehead State University Space Science Center and its partners designed, fabricated, tested, and delivered the satellite to NASA in one year. Partnering on the project with Morehead State were Kentucky Space LLC, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, Noqsi Aerospace, Black Forest Engineering and Little H-Bar Ranch. Dr. Ben Malphrus, chair of MSU’s Department of Earth and Space Science, serves as principle investigator on the project, leading the team to completion and delivery of the satellite on the extremely compressed one-year timeline. Dr. Garrett Jernigan, formerly of the University of California at Berkeley and currently with Little H-Bar Ranch, is the Project Scientist and designed the science array. Assistant professor of space science Kevin Brown and Tyler Rose, student engineering team leader, led a team of engineers and scientists at the Space Science Center in designing, building and testing the satellite.

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