Faculty Research at Morehead State University


University-based Nanosatellite Missions and Ground Operations at Morehead State

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The Space Science Center (Department of Earth and Space Sciences) at Morehead State University (MSU), Morehead, KY (USA) engages undergraduate students in the development and operation of nano- and microsatellite systems to provide real-world engineering opportunities and training experiences. The Space Science Center operates several ground stations, including low-bandwidth VHF/UHF systems and a 21-meter diameter, full motion, parabolic dish antenna system, to support these and other university-based small satellite missions. The MSU 21-m Space Tracking Antenna is capable of providing telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) services for a wide variety of space missions. The 21-m has the capacity to track satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) with extremely low transmission power, as well as satellites at geostationary, lunar, and Earth‐Sun Lagrangian orbits. The system currently operates at L‐, S‐, C-, X- and Ku‐bands. The instrument is primarily operated by undergraduate students who work in the associated laboratories to gain hands‐on training in RF systems and techniques. The 21-m is also used as a test bed for advanced RF systems developed by faculty and collaborators, and has been employed in a growing portfolio of satellite missions including serving as the primary ground station for KySat-1, a secondary ground station for EduSat, and as the primary high-bandwidth ground stations for Radio Auroral Explorer 2 (RAX2) and the Cosmic X-Ray Background NanoSatellite (CXBN) missions. The system has also been employed in the testing and calibration of the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter synthetic aperture radar (mini-SAR) at X- and S-bands. The team is in the process of upgrading the system to incorporate automated operations and to become Space Link Extension (SLE) compliant. This paper describes the current nanosatellite missions managed by the Space Science Center and the ground operations components of these missions (including the challenges and constraints imposed by the university-based non-commercial structure), all of which are designed to train undergraduate students as the next workforce in support of the ground operations and satellite development industries.