Faculty Research at Morehead State University


The Development and Testing of a 21 m Earth Station and Radio Telescope at Morehead State University for Research and Education

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The Space Science Center at Morehead State University (Morehead, KY, U.S.A.) has developed a 21 meter full-motion antenna system that serves as: 1.) a ground station capable of tracking Earth-orbiting satellites in a variety of orbital configurations 2.) a test bed for advanced RF systems, and 3.) a radio telescope for astronomical research. The 21 m also serves as an active laboratory for students engaged in space science, engineering, telecommunications electronics, and astrophysics. The instrument primarily supports undergraduate student research projects in observational astrophysics, hardware and software design related to radio astronomy observations, telecommunication systems, and space systems operation. The 21 m is engaged in radio observations of microvariability in active galactic nuclei (AGNs), observations of transient events, (i.e. radio afterglow of Gamma Ray Bursts) and surveys (i.e. kinematic surveys of atomic hydrogen in the Milky Way Galaxy). In Earth station mode, the 21 m is capable of tracking a variety of satellites including LEOs, MEOs, GEOs, and lunar orbiting and fly-by spacecraft. A major goal of this project is to assist in the development of a workforce for the space operations industry. The 21 m was brought on-line in 2006 and currently operates two receivers: an L-band receiver (1.4-1.7 GHz) covering the “water hole” and a Ku-band receiver (11.2-12.7 GHz) for continuum observations and satellite mission support. Other frequency bands (including an S-band 2.2-2.5 GHz receiver for satellite mission support and a 6 cm (C-band) feed for radio astronomy research) are in the development stages. The 21 m will serve as the primary Earth station for the KySat-1 and -2 orbital missions, as an Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) Earth station for NASA’s PharmaSat mission, and as an Earth station for future NASA (and potentially ESA) missions.