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MSU’s Space Mission CXBN-2 Selected by NASA


Morehead State University in partnership with the University of California at Berkeley has had a space mission selected by NASA as one of the 24 small satellites to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets planned to launch in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The Cosmic X-Ray Background Nanosatellite-2, or CXBN-2, is a follow-on mission to CXBN, a successful 2-U cubesat that was launched on September 13, 2012, as a secondary payload on the NASA ELaNa VI OUTSat mission. CubeSats belong to a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites measure about four inches on each side, have a volume of about one quart, and weigh less than three pounds. 

“The mission addresses a fundamental science question that is central to our understanding of the structure, origin, and evolution of the universe by potentially lending insight into both the high energy background radiation and into the evolution of primordial galaxies,” said Dr. Ben Malphrus, chair of MSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. 

CXBN-2 will map the Extragalactic Diffuse X-Ray Background (DXB) with a new breed of Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CZT) detector (first flown on CXBN) but with twice the detector array area of its precursor and with careful characterization and calibration. The DXB is a powerful tool for understanding the early universe and provides a window to the most energetic objects in the far-away universe. Although studied previously, existing measurements disagree by about 20 percent. The goal of the CXBN-2 mission is to increase the precision of measurements of the Cosmic X-Ray Background in the 30-50 keV range top a precision of <5%, thereby constraining models that attempt to explain the relative contribution of proposed sources lending insight into the underlying physics of the early universe. 

“With the novel CZT detector aboard CXBN-2 and an improved array configuration, a new, high precision measurement is now possible,” said Malphrus. 

Both the science program and the engineering of the spacecraft will be conducted by graduate and undergraduate students in concert with university faculty mentors. Dr. Malphrus is the principle investigator. 

Dr. Kevin Brown, assistant professor of space science, is serving as the spacecraft engineer, Jeff Kruth, space science staff electrical engineer, is serving as the systems engineer, Eric Thomas is the lead microfabrication engineer, Michael Combs provides electronics systems technical support and serving on the science team led by Dr. Garrett Jernigan of the University of California Berkeley is Dr. Tom Pannuti, associate professor of astrophysics, and Dr. Roger McNeil, dean of the College of Science and Technology. Numerous students in space science and astrophysics serve on the student engineering and science teams. The anticipated launch, in 2016, will represent the fourth spacecraft developed by the Space Science Center and its partners to reach space. 

Additional information is available by contacting Dr. Malphrus at 606-783-2212.

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