Pictured at UCD are; Joe Thompson, PhD student, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering; John Halligan TD, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development and Maeve Doyle, PhD student, UCD School of Physics. (Image: Colm Mahady, Fennell Photography).

John Halligan TD, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, today announced that Ireland’s first ever satellite, EIRSAT-1 (www.eirsat1.ie), has successfully completed the first phase of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Fly your Satellite! (FYS) Programme, the Critical Design Review, and moves one step closer to launch into space.

Minister Halligan TD made the announcement during a visit to University College Dublin (UCD) where he met with the interdisciplinary team of 16 UCD postgraduate students who are building the satellite with the support of ESA’s Education Office.

EIRSAT-1 (Educational Irish Research Satellite-1) is a miniature satellite, or CubeSat, and is comparable in size to that of an average shoebox. In May 2017 EIRSAT-1 was chosen to be part of the second cycle of the FYS! Programme. ESA has concluded that the objectives of the satellite’s Critical Design Review have now been achieved, marking an important milestone for the project.

The UCD team now moves to the next phase of the programme, and will begin to assemble and test an EIRSAT-1 prototype in newly installed clean rooms at the University. Subject to passing further reviews and mission milestones, EIRSAT-1 is expected to be delivered to ESA in mid-2020 with 3 scientific experiments on board. After subsequent launch it is anticipated to operate for a 6 to 12 month period. Once in orbit the satellite will communicate data to Earth through a ground radio station, located at EIRSAT-1 mission control in the UCD School of Physics.

Minister Halligan TD said, “The EIRSAT-1 project provides the UCD student team with a great opportunity to develop skills in satellite development, a first in Irish space science education. The development of these skills will have an impact beyond those directly participating in the project, including in the expanding space industry sector in Ireland.”

“Furthermore, UCD’s participation in the Fly Your Satellite! programme has significant potential to drive an interest in space among students at all levels of education at a time when Ireland’s STEM capabilities are playing an increasingly important role in our international competitiveness.”

Professor Lorraine Hanlon, UCD School of Physics and EIRSAT-1 Project Leader, said, “Cubesats such as EIRSAT-1 are disrupting the traditional space sector globally, providing a fast and cost effective route to gaining spaceflight heritage. As an emerging space nation, Ireland’s future space endeavours will benefit from the skills developed by the talented team of UCD students who are building EIRSAT-1.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “I would like to congratulate the EIRSAT-1 team of UCD students on successfully completing the first phase of ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! programme and wish them every success with the next phase of assembling and testing the satellite.”

“The Government’s recent announcement of Ireland’s membership of the European Southern Observatory provides significant benefits for advancing the skills agenda and research excellence in the space sector in Ireland. A key objective of the EIRSAT-1 mission is through its success to inspire the next generation of students to study STEM subjects.”

“The skills base and the research and development agenda are closely aligned, and both need continuing investment by Government to ensure that Ireland can maximise its return from global opportunities in the space sector. The ongoing implementation of the Innovation 2020 strategy is key to building critical mass in key areas of importance in the space sector in Ireland to the benefit of individual enterprises and the economy.”

The 3 EIRSAT-1 experiments, designed and developed in UCD, will include technology from Irish industry partners such as ENBIO and SensL (now part of ON Semiconductor).

The main experiment on-board EIRSAT-1 will be a novel gamma-ray detector, called GMOD, which aims to detect gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic explosions in the universe, which occur when some stars die or collide. The second experiment, EMOD, is an in-flight demonstration of thermal control coatings developed by the Irish company ENBIO Ltd. The third experiment, called Wave-Based Control, or WBC, tests a UCD-developed algorithm to control the movement of EIRSAT-1.

The EIRSAT-1 team includes students from the UCD Schools of Physics; Mechanical and Materials Engineering; Electrical and Electronic Engineering; and Mathematics and Statistics. The students, funded by the Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland and ESA, are being supported by academic staff, postdoctoral researchers, technicians and industry mentors.

Joe Thompson, a PhD student in the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, said, “I chose to study Mechanical Engineering because I enjoyed both maths and physics and using them to solve challenging technical problems in creative new ways. It’s a dream come true for me to work on a project as exciting as EIRSAT-1 with amazing people from so many different disciplines and to help make history with them by building and launching Ireland’s first satellite.”

Lána Salmon, a PhD student in the UCD School of Physics, who is leading the ground development element of the project said, “Students in Ireland, like myself, are for the first time getting the opportunity to contribute to satellite development. I did not expect to be involved in such an exciting Irish project so early in my career. This incredible opportunity has so far provided me with essential hands-on training and links to the Irish space industry, which is of great benefit to my future career.”

The EIRSAT-1 mission is supported by industry partners including; ENBIO, SensL (now part of ON Semiconductor) and Parameter Space.

Submitted on 25/09/2018