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MSU's Lunar IceCube launches aboard NASA’s Artemis I moon mission

A piece of Morehead State arrived in outer space with the launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft as part of NASA’s Artemis I mission in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 16.

NASA launched the SLS, the most powerful rocket ever built, at 1:47 a.m. EST from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft is expected to travel 40,000 miles beyond the Moon before returning back to Earth. 

Artemis I deployed Lunar IceCube, a nanosat designed, constructed and tested by more than 50 Morehead State students and faculty and staff at MSU's Space Science Center, as a secondary payload. Scientists and engineers from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, NASA’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia and the Busek Space Propulsion company also contributed to Lunar Ice Cube.

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 inform NASA’s future human and robotic exploration plans. 

Lunar IceCube's mission will last approximately 18 months. The Mission Operations Center (MOC) in MSU's Space Science Center 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.  

To track Orion on its mission, visit

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

Photo Credit: NASA

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