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The Nation’s First: A Kentucky Fried Satellite

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When you think of Kentucky, you think of (if you’re being polite like you should be) horses, bourbon, the Colonel, and the nicest darn people this side of the Pearly Gates. But would you, in a million years, think space program? Not government subsidized acreage, ya hickthe satellite business.

The Blue Grass State will be the first in the U.S. to launch a communications satellite into space. It won’t be launched from the disputed “Silicon Holler” near Morehead State University, though. The job’s being outsourced to Kazakhstan and set for launch in late 2007.

Silicon Holler? Really? Is that a Dueling Banjos ringtone I hear? Let’s think of something that hasn’t already embarrassed Virginia, been snubbed by the Ozarks, and been pronounced correctly in Tennesseesomething original like Anything But Silicon Holler, Kentucky.

Announced late last week by the state Council on Postsecondary Education, the satellite program is a joint effort by Morehead, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville (pronounced Lou-uh-vull), Murray State, and Western Kentucky University. Morehead offers one of the nation’s four bachelor’s degree programs in space science and is home to a “world class” 21-meter satellite-tracking dish.

The KentuckySatellite (KySat) is a cube-shaped, 10-centemeter tall Pico satellite that weighs less than a kilogram, designed by a six-student team from the aforementioned universities. It will be strapped to a Russian-built intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) sans nuclear warhead. Kazakhstan can launch the satellite for about $40,000, a price that cannot be approached in U.S.

I know a guy that could strap it to a whiskey still and launch it for $400 and a bushel of corn mash. We were going for the lowest bidder, right? Oh, right, those kinds of fireworks are illegal in Ky.

KySat is loaded with an onboard camera, temperature monitors, data storage, and UHF/VHF radio. Information collected by the satellite will be viewable as a free learning tool to Kentucky’s schools and universities to help train students to design, build, and operate spacecraft. The Kentucky Virtual University will keep project participants informed of the progress and will include California’s Kids Aren’t Too Young for Satellites (KatySat).

Stanford University is lending its support to the project along with California’s NASA Ames Research Center in order to create a “pipeline” of engineering students in Kentucky among concerns that US engineering graduates have declined in recent years.

Expected to cost $375,000-$400,000, officials hope KySat to be the first in a series of increasingly more complex satellites launched every 12-18 months. The launch is also expected to lure space technology and other tech companies to the area.

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The Nation’s First: A Kentucky Fried Satellite
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