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MSU partners with Intuitive Machines to develop lunar communications system

Morehead State's Space Science Center recently partnered with space services provider Intuitive Machines (IM) to validate a complete lunar communications solution with the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).  

Under an agreement with NASA and as a part of a Live Sky test of IM's Lunar Telemetry and Tracking Network (LTN), MSU's 21-meter antenna locked onto NASA's LRO radiofrequency and fed the signal back to IM's Nova Control in Houston, Texas. The complete test validated the process used to communicate, command, and control IM's spacecraft during the company's 2022 lunar mission.  

"The importance of these live sky tests utilizing NASA's LRO cannot be overstated," said Dr. Benjamin Malphrus, executive director of MSU Space Science Center. "These tests represent complete end-to-end systems tests of our ground station, ground data systems, and interfaces to IM's Nova Control. They also represent valuable training opportunities for our early-career mission operation specialists and engineers in training."  

MSU's 21-meter dish provides telemetry, tracking, ranging, and commanding services for low-Earth, medium-Earth, and near-Earth deep space missions. All future IM missions to the Moon will require the technical support and expertise that the team at MSU is ready to provide for mission tracking and data downlink services.  

"This was a critical step towards returning the United States to the lunar surface on our IM-1 mission this year," said Peter McGrath, vice president of business development at Intuitive Machines. "It is also key to validating our fully commercial lunar distance communication and data relay network that supports future IM missions as well as other players in the emerging lunar economy."  

Intuitive Machines is a space services and technologies provider. The company’s Lunar Payload Delivery Services (LPDS) program will send the first American spacecraft to the surface of the Moon since the Apollo Program and send the first spacecraft ever to reach the lunar south pole. Intuitive Machines is one of NASA's contractors as part of the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.  

To explore MSU's Department of Physics, Earth Sciences and Space Systems Engineering programs, visit, email or call 606-783-2381.