First Irish satellite to be launched in space

Ireland is boldly going where it has never gone before by preparing to launch its very first satellite in space, writes Pádraig Hoare.

Led by University College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast, in partnership with five Irish companies, the EIRSAT-1 satellite will be launched from the International Space Station and will orbit for 12 months if it passes the stringent testing of the European Space Agency (ESA).

EIRSAT-1 will gather data on Gamma Ray Bursts and will test innovative Irish space technologies.

It is being developed under the ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! 2017 programme and those involved hope it will inspire more young people to take up the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and maths.

The International Space Station.

Professor Lorraine Hanlon of UCD’s School of Physics, who is lead professor on the project, said: “This success has been made possible through sustained support from Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland and ESA, combined with a team of outstanding students at undergraduate and graduate level in space science, physics and engineering, who will have to work extremely hard to pass the ESA reviews and make the dream of this satellite mission come true.”

She added: “Our students will have an amazing opportunity to learn, not only from the wealth of expertise at ESA, but also from the other excellent teams participating in the programme from across Europe. This hard work will prepare them very well for future careers in the space sector.”

The systems engineer is David Murphy, a PhD student in the UCD Space Science group.

He said: “Working on EIRSAT-1 is an unprecedented opportunity for Irish students. When I started my PhD I hoped that I'd be helping to push forward the design of a gamma-ray detector that might someday fly in space. I never expected that as a student I'd be responsible for flying that detector on Ireland's first satellite.”

Dr Gasser Abdelal of Queen’s University Belfast School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and lead structure engineer, said: “One remarkable step for academic staff on the project, and one giant leap for our aerospace degree students.”

The satellite will orbit the Earth gathering data for approximately 12 months and will be managed and controlled from UCD, where a ground station in the School of Physics at UCD will be the command centre.

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