A 12-meter antenna is being installed at Morehead State University.
The need for a second antenna arose after the 21-meter antenna, responsible for radio astronomy, was contracted by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems to become an affiliated node on the Deep Space Network, DSN. Once it’s dedicated to lunar missions, it will no longer be able to research low-orbiting, LEO, satellites or train students.
“It gives us a capability that we would’ve lost because the big dish will be used exclusively for lunar work and it would’ve been very difficult to find time on it to train students,” said Ben Malphrus, the executive director of the Space Science Center. “Having the 12-meter in place will allow us to continue that work that we’re fairly well known for and providing hands-on training for students.”
Currently there are only three DSN sites in the world, making MSU’s 21-meter the fourth affiliated node.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory donated the 12-meter to supplement the work of the big dish. The dish came from the DSN Complex in California after it was decommissioned.
According to President Dr. Jay Morgan, the multimillion dollar donation was paired with a $250,000 donation through Kentucky’s General Assembly for the antenna installation.
The new antenna will generate more revenue by offering more services, research and development. It will also allow the Space Science program to offer students more opportunities in the field.
“The intent is really for research and development, but it also has a teaching component because our students will have the benefit of potentially working, gaining real world experience, on not only our antenna we have now but the additional one,” said Morgan.
Students will be able to operate the antennas, command space crafts, pull down data and telemetry and be in control of the implementation of the sub-systems.
“Students are not only involved in the operation of the instruments but also in the development,” said Malphrus. “We’ll involve students not only when it’s complete, but every step of the way.”
Only the foundation for the antenna’s structure has been completed but it’s projected to go online within two years.