Enbio in €500k deal with ESA for ‘sunscreen’ to protect satellites in space

Irish surface technology company Enbio has signed a €500,000 contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to produce a “sunscreen” to protect satellites as they travel in space.

NovaUCD-based Enbio’s unique technology platform, CoBlast, produces unique “black” surfaces, that it will then deploy on critical internal and external surfaces of satellites.

These “Solarblacks” combine extreme thermal and ultra-violet radiation stability, robustness and electrical conductivity characteristics. This unique surface will give ESA satellites and their costly payloads robust protection against solar radiation in space.

Enbio’s vice-president for business development, Nigel Cobbe, said: “This is a fantastic achievement not only for Enbio but also for Ireland’s high-tech manufacturing base.”

Enbio is also collaborating with Astrium, the prime contractor for the Solar Orbiter satellite mission to the sun. This ESA mission is aimed at studying Earth’s nearest star and is due for launch in 2017. The Orbiter will travel closer to the sun than any previous satellite mission.

Astrium’s Andy Whitehouse has described Enbio’s unique black surface as “very promising” and a strong contender to provide protection for the Solar Orbiter satellite mission to the sun.

Nigel Cobbe added: “The possible selection of our surface technology on the Solar Orbiter satellite, in particular as the first line of defence on the heatshield, unquestionably highlights the unique robustness of our surfaces. Quite literally, the best surface under the sun.”

The Enbio CoBlast process was invented and developed by company CEO John O’Donoghue. CoBlast replaces a metal’s oxide layer, typically aluminium and titanium, with a desired thin surface which fuses to the underlying metal in a single, environmentally friendly process step, requiring no chemicals or thermal input.

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