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Roger McNeil and Ben Malphrus

MSU professors Roger McNeil and Ben Malphrus are interviewed at the 2014 IdeaFestival.
Season 9 Episode 43 Length 28:31 Premiere: 11/18/14

It’s Rocket Science: Morehead Opens New Frontiers in Space

Kentucky’s largest export isn’t automobiles, coal, chemicals and synthetic materials, or even bourbon.

Would you be surprised to know that it’s actually aerospace parts and products?

In the first nine months of this year, Kentucky exported nearly $5 billion worth of space-related goods. That’s $1.2 billion more than the state exported in motor vehicles and parts.

Morehead State University is one of the entities at the forefront of the new aerospace research and development in the commonwealth. In addition to its bachelor’s degree in space sciences, MSU is one of two schools in the nation to offer a master’s degree in space systems engineering.

On KET’s One to One, host Bill Goodman spoke with Ben Malphrus, the director of MSU’s Space Science Center, and Roger R. McNeil, Dean of College of Science and Technology, about aerospace research at MSU. Their conversation was recorded at the 2014 IdeaFestival in Louisville.

State-of-the-Art Facilities House Cutting-Edge Research
Malphrus says the heart of Morehead’s Space Sciences Program is research and development of miniature satellites that can be produced in less time and for less money than traditional satellites. Students and faculty work in collaboration with other schools, federal agencies, and aerospace companies around the world to create hardware and electronics for satellites that can fit in the palm of your hand.

The result is an academic program that gives students an interdisciplinary approach to technology. “It’s a little bit electrical engineering, it’s a little bit mechanical engineering, it’s a little bit computer science, a little bit space physics all wrapped in together,” Malphrus explains.

The Space Sciences program is centered in Smith Booth Hall at Morehead. It’s a $15 million facility that includes clean rooms for fabricating satellite components, a special electromagnetic chamber that mimics the space environment, and state-of-the-art measuring equipment to test equipment performance. The school also has a 21-meter antenna system to track and download data from the satellites once they’re in space.

A New Industry to Revitalize Eastern Kentucky
Roger McNeil says the vision for the space sciences program is to foster a new industry for Kentucky that will attract high-tech students and jobs to the state. He explains that the miniature satellites the school is developing involve innovative, so-called “disruptive” technologies that create new markets.

But that doesn’t mean their graduates can only work for aerospace companies. Malphrus says students will be qualified to work in the automotive, telecommunications, or computer industries, or any other businesses that can benefit from miniaturization of technology.

McNeil says Morehead State is also launching a business incubator to help launch companies that would emerge from the research done at the school. He sees this kind of entrepreneurship as key to revitalizing the eastern Kentucky economy.

The two men also credit Kris Kimel of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and Kentucky Space for helping to foster aerospace initiatives in the state. Despite jokes about “Kentucky-fried satellites,” Malphrus says Kimel has worked hard to lure talent and business to the commonwealth. Malphrus says Kimel recruited Bob Twiggs, who invented cube satellite technology at Stanford University, to join the Morehead State faculty.

“Aeropsace is [now] the number one manufactured export in the state, so I don’t think people are laughing any more,” Malphrus says.

amgrad3KET’s education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Season 9 Episodes

30th Celebration of Leadership Kentucky

S9 E47 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 12/14/14

Peter Van Buren and Kris Kimel

S9 E44 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 11/27/14

Roger McNeil and Ben Malphrus

S9 E43 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 11/18/14

John Thelin

S9 E42 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11/11/14

Congressman John Yarmuth

S9 E36 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 10/01/14

Ron Leach

S9 E35 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 09/23/14

Jack Conway

S9 E34 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 09/13/14

Hal Heiner

S9 E33 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 09/06/14

Mike Duncan

S9 E31 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/23/14

Steve Beshear and Hal Rogers

S9 E30 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/16/14

Sen. Rand Paul

S9 E29 Length 27:01 Premiere Date 08/09/14

Chuck Todd

S9 E28 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/02/14

Naomi Judd

S9 E27 Length 28:23 Premiere Date 07/26/14

Jason Howard

S9 E26 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 07/19/14

Roy Hoffman

S9 E25 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 07/12/14

Karen Mann

S9 E24 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 07/05/14

Dr. Shawn C. Jones

S9 E23 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 06/27/14

Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen

S9 E22 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/21/14

Stephen Chung

S9 E21 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 06/14/14

Jean Cochran

S9 E20 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 06/07/14

Bob Marino

S9 E19 Length 26:17 Premiere Date 05/31/14

Diane Ravitch

S9 E18 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 05/24/14

Al Cross - 2014 election primary

S9 E17 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/17/14

Owsley Brown III

S9 E16 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 05/10/14

Eugenia Toma

S9 E15 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/03/14

Dr. Wayne Andrews

S9 E14 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/26/14

Dr. Otto Kaak

S9 E13 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/19/14

Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer

S9 E12 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/12/14

John Williams

S9 E11 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/05/14

Jimmy Rose

S9 E10 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 03/29/14

Dan Gediman

S9 E9 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 03/22/14

James Hurley

S9 E8 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/23/14

Dreama Gentry

S9 E7 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 02/16/14

Geoffrey Mearns, president of Northern Kentucky University

S9 E6 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/09/14

Terry Brooks, Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

S9 E5 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/02/14

Ben Chandler, Former Congressman

S9 E4 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/26/14

Dr. Christine Riordan

S9 E3 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 01/19/14

Governor Steve Beshear, January 5, 2014

S9 E1 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/05/14

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