EIRSAT-1 can now progress to next phases of development at UCD

Ireland is one step closer this week to launching its first-ever satellite, EIRSAT-1, into space after meeting an important milestone.

A research group based out of University College Dublin has successfully completed the Critical Design Review, the first phase of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Fly your Satellite! (FYS) Programme. The EIRSAT-1 project can now progress to the next phases in development.

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Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD was on hand to deliver the news at UCD this week.

He 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! program 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.”

Joe Thompson, PhD student, Minister John Halligan TD, and Maeve Doyle, PhD student, UCD

Joe Thompson, PhD student, Minister John Halligan TD, and Maeve Doyle, PhD student, UCD

The Irish satellite 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 now concluded that the objectives of the satellite’s Critical Design Review have been achieved, marking an important milestone for the project.

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Having passed the Critical Design Review, the team at UCD will now progress to building a prototype satellite. If the satellite passes further review, EIRSAT-1 aims to be launched in mid-2020 with three scientific experiments on board.

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 Project Leader for EIRSAT-1 Professor Lorraine Hanlon, UCD School of Physics 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 endeavors will benefit from the skills developed by the talented team of UCD students who are building EIRSAT-1.”

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Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “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 maximize its return from global opportunities in the space sector.”

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.”