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Morehead State's Lunar IceCube to launch Aug. 29 aboard Artemis I

Ben Malprus holding a model of LunarIceCubeA satellite built by students and faculty at Morehead State is scheduled to head into space Monday, Aug. 29, aboard the most powerful spacecraft ever made as part of a NASA mission to the moon.   

The satellite, Lunar IceCube, passed environmental testing last summer and was delivered to NASA's Kennedy Space Center to be installed as a secondary payload on the Artemis I mission. The satellite will use a plasma drive propulsion system to take it on a circuitous route to the moon. It will orbit and investigate the transportation physics of water ice on the lunar surface to support a lunar outpost that NASA plans to develop. NASA hopes that there is enough water on the moon to support future human and robotic solar system exploration.  

The Lunar IceCube team includes several faculty and staff members of the Space Science Center and more than 50 students at Morehead State, in addition to a small number of scientists and engineers from NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Center and the Busek Space Propulsion company.  

Lunar IceCube's mission will last approximately 18 months and the spacecraft will perform hundreds of orbits of the moon. The Mission Operations Center (MOC) in the Space Science Center at Morehead State University will operate the mission. The team will use NASA's Deep Space Network and Morehead State University's own 21-meter ground station antenna to send commands to the spacecraft and downlink data and telemetry.  

"Lunar IceCube is one of the first of a generation of higher capability CubeSat spacecraft that represents a transition of the technology from Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites to Interplanetary missions," said Nathan Fite, MSU space systems engineer and Lunar ICECube program manager. "The Artemis 1 missions bridge the gap between LEO CubeSats and larger interplanetary space missions."  

The aerospace industry continues to be a growing sector of Kentucky’s economy, creating more than 4,000 jobs and generating $$2.7 billion in investment between 2014 and 2020, according to the 2021 Kentucky Economic Development Guide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the industry will experience continued growth through 2030.  

The launch is scheduled to take place between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., and a watch party for the event is planned for students, faculty and staff at the Star Theater. Watch live at or

For more information about Lunar IceCube and the Artemis I mission, visit    

To explore programs in MSU's Department of Physics, Earth Science and Space Systems Engineering, visit, email or call 606-783-2381. 
Photo caption: Dr. Ben Malphrus, executive director of MSU's Space Science Center, holds a model of the Lunar IceCube that will be launched on Artemis I.