With the exploration phase of its moon mission now complete and the science phase set to begin, LRO has provided an unprecedented view of our nearest neighbor, mapping the lunar poles, for example, and finding water ice in the permanently shadowed regions of the craters there.
Kentucky Space has played a small part in LRO's work. Collaborating with engineers and scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) last spring, Kentucky Space, using the 21 meter dish at Morehead State University, to characterize the Mini-RF as LRO orbited the moon. From a May press release:
'Overall, the test campaign was a tremendous success,' says Ron Schulze, LRO/Mini-RF calibration lead engineer from APL. 'While we’re still evaluating the data that were received on the ground and recorded by Mini-RF, our initial analysis indicates that the Mini-RF transmit/receive performance and antenna pointing is sufficient for the science goals of the program.'
'The innovative solution that the APL team and Kentucky Space developed and implemented to perform this valuable test for Mini-RF was a perfect example of how NASA missions can work with educational institutions,' said Jason Crusan, Chief Technologist for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters. 'To witness such a successful collaborative effort demonstrates the potential to develop the next generation workforce through allowing them to participate directly on missions.'
Through its work with Johns Hopkins University, MSU was also able to push the university's radio antenna to "new levels of precision" at all frequencies, according to Dr. Ben Malphrus at MSU.
And as another example of the developing human and physical infrastructure devoted to space exploration in Kentucky, this particular story is not yet finished. The dish will be used to charactize the mini-RF at X-band later this fall.
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