Morehead State University Space Science Center

Morehead State University
Space Science Center

About the Morehead State University
Space Science Center

The Space Science Center at Morehead State University focuses on the development and operation of small satellites. The Center provides Telemetry, Tracking, and Command (TT&C) services with the 21-meter Antenna at UHF, S-Band, X-Band, and Ku-bands for LEO missions and TT&C and Ranging services for inner solar system interplanetary smallsat missions. The Center provides spacecraft environmental testing services including: vibration analysis, T-Vac, EMI/EMC, and antenna characterization. The Center’s staff and students have flown several space missions with partners including: KySat-2, CXBN, CXBN-2, EduSat, UniSat-5, T-LogoQube (Eagle-1) and DM-7, with other missions in development including CXBN-3 and Lunar IceCube (slated to fly on the NASA Artemis 1 mission). MSU offers academic programs including: B.S. in Space Systems Engineering, B.S. in Astrophysics and M.S. in Space Systems Engineering. Courses are taught by outstanding faculty with industry experience in satellite systems design, defense electronics, and space operations.

Lunar IceCube


Other Space Science Center missions:

  • CXBN is designed to increase the precision of measurements of the Cosmic X-ray Background in the 30-50 KeV range in an effort to constrain models that explain the underlying physics of the diffuse component of the X-ray background. Additional information can also be found on the CXBN Poster. 
  • CXBN-2 is designed to continue the mission of CXBN to increase the precision of measurements of the cosmic X-ray background in the 30-50 KeV range in an effort to constrain models that explain the underlying physics of the diffuse component of the X-ray background.
  • DM-7 The Honeywell-Morehead-DM-7 validates dependable multiprocessing (DM), a new type of computer software system that uses several commercially available processors working together to increase computing speed and reduce computing errors in a space environment. It demonstrates that the technology can work in the harsh radiation environment of space, enabling its use on future space missions.
  • KySat-2 will carry a number of technology validation experiments, including one exploring the effect of the space environment on a novel chemical solar cell coating. 
  • Eagle-1 Students of the Space Science Center (SSC) at Morehead State University served as the principle engineers in the development of two of the first PocketQubs (Eagle-1 and Eagle-2) and the Morehead-Rome FemtoSat Orbital Deployers (FOD) designed to deploy the femtosats from Edusat (the mother ship). Eagle-1 and 2 will test deployable de-orbit systems and establish flight heritage for femtosat systems including power systems and transceivers.
  • TechSat-1 Morehead State University and Kentucky Space have partnered with Radiance Technologies, I-3, Tethers Unlimited and Honeywell to develop a demonstration of a nano satellite aiming to increase the power available on Cubesat-like platforms and demonstrate the technology necessary to develop nanosats with significant and consistent power available to operate high-capacity payloads. The specific goal is to develop a CubeSat platform that generates 50 Watts of power and has the capacity to store and control 75w/min/orbit. 
  • Glio-Lab is a joint project between GAUSS-Group of Astrodynamics at the”Sapienza” University of Roma and the Morehead State University (MSU) Space Science Center in Kentucky. The main goal of this project is the design and manufacturing of an autonomous space system to investigate potential effects of the space environment exposure on a human glioblastoma multiforme cell line derived from a 65-year-old male and on Normal Human Astrocytes (NHA). 
  • EduSat is an innovative microsatellite weighing about 24 pounds and about the size of a small microwave oven, that was launched in July 2011 from Yasny, Russia, on a Dnepr Rocket. EduSat began as a collaboration between the University of Rome and the Italian Space Agency and now includes the Morehead State University Space Science Center and Kentucky Space. During its first 30 days in orbit, EduSat tested an orbital deployer designed to release femto-class satellites. While the femtosats were not released on the first mission, the deployment system that will ultimately deploy them will be tested. 
  • RAMPART is intended to certify warm gas propulsion subsystems and magnetic stabilization for Cubesat orbital altitude adjustment, as well as rapid prototyping methods of building one-piece satellite structures, propellant tanks, printed circuit board cages, erectable solar panels, antenna deployment mechanisms, etc. at a fraction of the cost of current methods. 
  • UNISat 5 and 6 are two large-scale European-US microsatellite missions between the Space Science group at Morehead State University, the Sapienza group at the University of Rome, the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency led by the European Space Agency. 



The Space Science Center at Morehead State University has developed a full motion 21-Meter class antenna system which  provides telemetry, tracking, ranging and commanding services for LEO, MEO and “near Earth” deep space missions independently and as DSS-17, an affiliated node on NASA’s Deep Space Network. The instrument is a unique educational tool which provides an active laboratory for students to have hands-on learning experiences with the intricacies of satellite telecommunications and radio astronomy. The 21-M supports undergraduate research in astrophysics, satellite telecommunications, RF and electrical engineering and software development. The 21-M antenna system became operational in 2006.

Radio astronomy research projects include: 

  • Long-term monitoring campaigns (AGNs) 
  • Sky surveys (Dynamic Mapping of HI in the Milky Way) 
  • Transient phenomena (radio afterglow of GRBs)

The 21-M is considered to be a medium-aperture telescope where apertures of radio telescopes have been generally categorized by a ratio of the aperture diameter to the incident wavelength. At L-Band, the ratio of the aperture diameter of the Antenna to the incident wavelength exceeds 100 while at higher frequencies this ratio becomes 1000 or higher. Medium-aperture telescopes such as the Antenna have many advantages as active laboratories and as research instruments for both students and faculty members. Medium-aperture centimeter-wave instruments like the Antenna can produce significant scientific contributions: for example, while time on large-aperture instruments is generally heavily subscribed for phenomenon-specific observations, medium- aperture telescopes can devote time to long-term monitoring campaigns, sky surveys, and event-specific phenomena such as supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and apparitions of comets. In this respect, the Antenna stands to produce a lasting legacy of crucial datasets at multiple frequencies to the entire astronomical community.

Maps of the spatial distribution of RF emission associated with astronomical objects are produced by raster scanning across the field of view and producing a map of the RF intensity distribution field by integrating the entire post-detection frequency band of 6 MHz into a single, integrated channel map (0th moment map). An image of the velocity field (1st moment map) and an image of the velocity dispersion (2nd moment map) can also be produced. Analysis of these maps of the phenomena in “velocity space” allows astronomers to calculate the kinematics of the system and thereby derive the dynamics, then infer the energetics, and virial masses, along with other insights into the underlying physics of these systems. An example of a 0th moment map showing the spatial distribution of radio emission from a supernova remnant (3C 157) is shown (left center). The detail seen in this image demonstrates the sensitivity and resolution of the 21-M.

Spacecraft Environmental Testing Services

The Space Science Center at MSU offers a variety of services to other universities, private aerospace companies, and government agencies. Our facilities allow us to perform a variety of tests to determine if space systems can successfully withstand the harsh conditions of the space environment. Hardware-in-the-Loop (HWIL) testing can be performed on a variety of spacecraft (Cubesats, PocketQubes, Microsatellites) to verify systems at NASA General Environmental Verification Specification (GEVS) levels. Participating in these activities allows students to gain valuable real-world experience and professional networking opportunities.

Space Systems Verification

  • Vibration Analysis System
  • Helmholtz Coil (Built by Staff)
  • Sun Simulator (Built by Staff)
  • T-Vac System
  • Residual Gas Analysis
  • EMI/EMC Testing
  • RF Compatability Testing
  • End to End Testing

Learn more about the environmental testing facilities and equipment available at MSU.
Ground Operations and Environmental Testing Services Pricing

Star Theater

The Star Theater is currently closed for a system upgrade. We look forward to reopening Fall 2021!

The Space Science Center’s Star Theater at Morehead State University is a state-of-the-art digital planetarium which offers public shows every Saturday from September to June. The Star Theater is also available for use during the week and evenings by school groups and community groups by reservation

Join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on what’s happening at the Star Theater.

About the Planetarium

Located in MSU’s Space Science Center, the Star Theater is unlike anything else in the region. The 90-seat digital theater serves as a classroom and planetarium for the region’s educators, MSU students and the general public. The Star Theater projects full 180º x 360º real-time blended video and graphics on a 40-foot dome screen using six digital projectors and state-of-the-art surround sound. In digital theater mode, the use of the all-dome video allows a broad range of programming, including simulated travel through deep space and through the deepest depths of the ocean, allowing free movement through a 3D universe viewing endless astronomical phenomena, such as comets, planets and supernova with full motion and 3D texturing. 

Educational Opportunities

The Star Theater provides an excellent tool for MSU students, area educators and the general public. Students in classes at MSU benefit from the Star Theater through visualization of astronomical concepts and phenomena. For the region’s educators, the Star Theater can serve as an invaluable teaching tool to stimulate both learning and imagination in the classroom. The theater offers more than a dozen programs for students in grades K-12. The youngest visitors can explore the cosmos with “Sesame Street” characters like Elmo and Big Bird in “One World, One Sky.” Students in higher grade levels can see visually impactful programs on various aspects of science, astronomy and what makes up our universe. The shows at the Star Theater help students and visitors visualize difficult concepts with an immersive experience that can foster a new appreciation and passion for learning. K-12 School Shows start with an educational program, a tour of the evening sky for the date of the visit and is followed by stunning laser light shows – many of which are accompanied by popular music. The Star Theater will make sure your educational experience ends with a bang!  

Out of This World Entertainment

The theater offers shows for the general public every weekend a at a low cost for visitors of all ages. The theater also hosts MSU Night every Thursday for MSU students and faculty/staff and their families. Admission is free with the presentation of a valid MSU I.D. Please note that these shows are not for the general public. In addition, the theater offers special group shows for youth groups, civic organizations, etc. at a low cost.

Academic Programs

Bachelor of Science, Space Systems Engineering

The Bachelor of Science in Space Systems Engineering degree at Morehead State is one of a few space systems engineering programs in the nation.

The B.S. in Space Systems Engineering is an aerospace engineering program that focuses exclusively on astronautical engineering- the engineering of spacecraft and space systems.  Aerospace engineering is comprised of aeronautical engineering (aircraft) and astronautical engineering (spacecraft and launch vehicles).  The B.S. in Space Systems is an astronautical engineering program (a subset of aerospace engineering) that takes a systems engineering approach to the design, development, testing and operation of spacecraft, with an emphasis on small satellite technologies.  Graduates have an aerospace engineering degree that exclusively focuses on astronautical engineering.

The presence of the 21-meter space tracking antenna on campus and facilities in the Space Science Center provide students with the hands-on training needed for this field. Students and staff have built and flown seven small satellite missions to date, with three in development. These represent extraordinary opportunity for hands-on training.

Students in the program work with excellent faculty with diverse backgrounds in space-related science and technology fields and perform research in space systems engineering, space mission operations and satellite ground station technologies.

This program will prepare students for professional opportunities in applied technologies such as astronautical engineering, space system development and testing, satellite telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) and telecommunications electronics. Graduates will be prepared for positions with NASA, aerospace companies, public and private science organizations, research facilities, colleges and in other commercial industries. 

For more information: click here

Master of Science, Space Systems Engineering

The Master of Science in Space Systems Engineering (MSSE) program trains you in systems – level engineering in spacecraft design, development and operation, which are all skills appropriate for careers in space technologies and applications. Graduates gain competencies in space systems engineering and design – level knowledge of the concepts, technologies and processes associated with aerospace systems requirements. The program places an emphasis on astronautics, emphasizing satellite design and development, particularly in the areas of satellite systems, (i.e. communications, command and data handling, attitude determination and control, thermal systems and power systems), nanosatellites, space mission operations and ground station technologies.

For more information, click here