Kentucky’s New Spacecraft

Students from the University of Kentucky College of Engineering are on a mission: Build a new spacecraft, fly it to space, have it survive intense heat during atmospheric re-entry.

This week will mark the first launch of KRUPS, the Kentucky Re-entry Universal Payload System, a small football-sized capsule that will collect data during re-entry to help improve spacecraft heatshields.

NASA rocket launches like this can cost upwards of several million dollars — an unthinkable amount given tight academic budgets. Yet several universities will be on this flight, testing their own prototypes and space technology experiments.

The opportunity to go to space was afforded through the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, a higher education program started 25 years ago by Congress to provide NASA-related training in all 50 states plus DC and Puerto Rico.

Space Grant partners with NASA to train and teach the nation’s next rocket scientists, pilots, flight surgeons, physicists, astronomers, astronauts, and engineers no matter where in the country they live.

KRUPS (Kentucky Re-entry Universal Payload System) ready for integration as a NASA rocket payload.

This marks the third trip UK students have made to NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Atlantic coast in support of this project. For some, the travel to NASA Wallops from Kentucky was their first time seeing the ocean.

Two previous trips to participate in launch workshops resulted in student payloads that went to space — training opportunities to prepare for this launch, the first flight test for the KRUPS spacecraft.

These students are developing technology as part of their education — and — conducting a mission to space.

Follow along as the KRUPS team prepares for the Aug 12, 2017 launch date. Watch the launch online or visit Wallops if you’re in the area.

UPDATE: Launch postponed to Sunday, Aug 13.

LAUNCH: The RockSat-X mission successfully launched to space at 5:30AM ET on Aug 13, 2017.


UK students arrived at NASA Wallops and prepared their capsule and ejection system for rocket integration. Like a jockey before the big race, the payload package had to pass weigh-in.

Ready to fly!


The KRUPS team delivered their payload to the NASA Wallops Sounding Rocket facility, successfully integrated into the rocket stack and completed simulation tests.


The team signed their payload and went outside to test GPS, confirming receipt of data packets. The rocket skin was installed and went through spin-balance. All set and on standby until Saturday’s launch.


The RockSat-X mission successfully launched to space over the Atlantic Ocean just before daybreak at 5:30AM ET on Aug 13, 2017 from the NASA Wallops launch range. The KRUPS capsule deployed successfully and the main payload stack was recovered and returned to NASA Wallops, allowing the team to retrieve their capsule ejector.

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