Ireland is set to launch its first satellite with the European Space Agency (ESA) early next year.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was authorised to sign an exchange of letters with the ESA on behalf of the Government and brought it before Cabinet colleagues yesterday.
The letters will confirm that Ireland recognises Eirsat-1 (the Educational Irish Research Satellite 1) as an Irish mission, and intends to register it on the UN Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
Eirsat-1 is expected to be launched by the ESA from its base in French Guiana in the next few months.
Mr Varadkar briefed Cabinet on the significant industrial and educational benefits of the project.
These include in-orbit demonstration of technologies developed by Irish companies, and the development of a skills and a knowledge base to make Ireland more competitive in the global space sector.
The satellite is being developed and built by the UCD School of Physics, and is planned to be launched within the next few months by the ESA.
While in orbit, it will collect data from three experiments within, including detecting gamma rays in low Earth orbit.
The cost of launching the satellite is set to be covered by the ESA.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney received approval for the country to become a participating State in the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats.
Ireland will benefit from expertise, training, and exercises as a result of joining.
Hybrid threats can include disinformation campaigns aimed at interfering in democratic institutions in a country, the deployment of economic pressures, such as energy supply restrictions, and cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure.
The centre, located in Helsinki, was established in 2017 by nine countries, all of which were members of either the EU or Nato.
It is expected that Ireland’s application would be considered by the centre’s steering committee in November 2022.
Meanwhile, the Government is not opposing a motion calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence to consider opening a passport office in Belfast.
It was tabled by Senators Niall Ó Donnghaile, Lynn Boylan, Fintan Warfield, and Paul Gavan for debate during private members’ time.
Cabinet was told demand for passports from the North remains steady at an average of 11,000 applications per month, or 10% of total applications received.
However, any proposed expansion would need to complement the Passport Office digital first strategy. And a full cost-benefit analysis would need to be conducted.
Furthermore, 90% of all passport applications, and 87% from Northern Ireland, are now made online.