Kentucky makes jump into space

By Elliott Hess

Kentucky will embark on its first space mission today with the launch of Space Express, one of Kentucky Satellite’s student-built rockets meant to start an inexpensive and quick way to get a satellite into space.

Kentucky Satellite, a project of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, is a joint enterprise of public organizations, universities and private companies to promote science and technology education. UK is a shareholder in the organization and several UK students are members on project teams.

“It feels really good; we’ve had lots of late nights that have paid off,” said Tyler Doering, Space Express team leader and UK electrical engineering graduate student. “Having it go from a drawing to actually being made is nice. It’s even nicer to see it fly in space.”

Space Express is an orbital satellite that will climb to an altitude of 62 miles and will be in space for two minutes to test its low-pressure systems, the processor and the radio system to see if they work outside the atmosphere.

When it returns to Earth after a four minute round trip, the rocket will land 15 to 45 miles from the launch site, still within the range of the launch facility, and will be completely destroyed on impact.

The rocket will serve as a test for a larger rocket launch by Kentucky Satellite next July when the satellite will stay in orbit for 10 years.

About 20 students and members of Kentucky Satellite left Sunday afternoon for NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M.

Most of the final assembly on the rocket was done yesterday, but the team will still have to check the launch site, making sure it’s clear of people before its 9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time launch, Doering said.

The Space Express, named for its fast trip to outer space, is a sub-project that is part of a larger Kentucky Satellite project, said Kris Kimel, the organization’s president.

UK students can join the more than 2,500 members of the Kentucky community who will have their names broadcast into space by Space Express. People can go to the Kentucky Satellite Web site ( to put their name on a list to be sent into space.

“It’s an interesting thing,” Kimel said. “People can go online and have their names digitized and put in to space.”