It’s one small step for a US rocket company, but one giant leap for a specialist Irish firm.
The National Space Centre, based in East Cork, is celebrating, after becoming the first to use Irish-based infrastructure to remotely track and monitor the deployment of satellites in orbit. It did so last weekend.
And after boldly going where no Irish firm has gone before, it is now well-positioned to exploit future opportunities in the growing commercial space sector.
US space launch provider, Rocket Lab, chose Elfordstown to provide critical support for the second test flight of its Electron orbital launch vehicle, ‘Still Testing’.
The rocket lifted-off from a launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula, in New Zealand, early on Sunday morning, with three customer satellites on-board: a weather, a nautical, and an earth imaging satellite.
The rocket reached orbit and deployed its payload eight minutes and 31 seconds later.
The team at Elfordstown used their ground station and teleport facilities to track and monitor the deployment.
National Space Centre CEO, Rory Fitzpatrick, said it was the first time a satellite orbital insertion had been monitored from Irish-based infrastructure, and that they were delighted to be part of the mission.
Irish first as Elfordstown tracks & monitors Rocket Lab satellite deployment https://t.co/7Y2vHwtYsO— NationalSpaceCentre (@Elfordstown) January 22, 2018
“Securing the Rocket Lab ground-segment contract has been another major step in developing our carrier-grade teleport at Elfordstown Earthstation,” he said.
The Electron rocket is now poised to be the first commercially bookable rocket built specifically for small payloads.
The launch of small satellites, which weigh less than 100kg, is a huge growth area, with an estimated 3,500 expected to be launched in the next decade. Rocket Lab has already signed up clients like NASA and Spaceflight for its commercial phase.
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