Ireland's first ever spacecraft announced

Ireland's first ever spacecraft announced

Ireland is to design and build its very first spacecraft, it's been announced.

The craft will be a satellite designed and built here, under the supervision of Maynooth-based company, Space Technology Ireland.

The company has already manufactured parts for other space missions, including for the Rosetta mission which landed a probe on a comet last year.

In that case, the Irish company built the radio transmitter and receiver which performed admirably after the Philae lander's bumpy arrival. However, this new satellite will be completely Irish-made - "a complete Irish project from start to finish," according to David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland.

Overseen by Professor Susan McKenna-Lawlor, who has previously worked with NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Russian Space Agency, the project hopes to involve Irish engineers and students in the design and construction.

"She's not too worried, apparently, about raising the actual funding," Moore said, explaining that the €5 million cost of the launch is being covered by Russia.

"The Russians hold [Prof. McKenna-Lawlor] in such high regard, they offered her a free launch - that's worth several million euro," he said.

In addition, he said there could be funding for the satellite's construction from universities' research budgets or other potential sponsors.

Precise details of the satellite - including its name, project specifications, and mission - are to be announced at Astronomy Ireland's "Star-B-Q" summer event this Saturday.

The annual event is Ireland's largest telescope festival, taking place in Roundwood, Co Wicklow - Ireland's highest village - with some powerful telescopes on hand to view the skies.

Further information on the event is available on Astronomy Ireland's website.

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