Irish team lands €4.5m rocket launcher contract

8 Feb 2017

Image: Igor Zh/Shutterstock

At €4.5m, the Dublin arm of engineering giant Curtiss-Wright has landed the largest ever contract related to European Space Agency activities.

Calling it a key achievement for an Irish-based operation “working at the cutting edge of space technologies”, John Halligan Minister for Training and Skills, TD, has lauded a new multimillion-euro contract secured by Curtiss-Wright.

The company’s Ireland-based facility has been selected by Italy’s European Launch Vehicle (ELV) SpA to provide a telemetry data system for the European Space Agency (ESA)’s new Vega C Launcher System.

At €4.5m, this is the largest ESA-related contract ever awarded to an Irish-based operation.

It will see Curtiss-Wright provide ELV with a full telemetry system, including data acquisition, data handling and RF transmission. The Vega C development contract runs from January 2017 until the first launch in June 2019.

“This contract award demonstrates how Irish operations such as Curtiss-Wright’s facility in Dublin are developing technologies to the highest levels of performance and reliability for the European space program,” said Halligan.

“These technologies have the potential to lead to increased sales in the global market and the creation of high-value jobs in Irish operations in line with the Government’s strategy for Ireland’s membership of ESA.”

Much like SpaceX’s entry into international space delivery, the Vega C launcher is an attempt to reduce costs around space travel. It is designed to deliver relatively light payloads, such as small satellite constellations, to low-earth orbit.

The ultimate aim for the launch system is that it will scale up and down, depending on the mission objectives, at a reduced cost. Curtiss-Wright was picked due its expertise in the commercial on-the-shelf (COTS) electronics systems approach.

The Vega C rocket will be launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The telemetry system will be built in Dublin, satisfying an expected demand of four flights per year.

“We are very excited about being selected by ELV to provide our cost-effective Space COTS telemetry system for use on the Vega C, especially as this is our first avionics design win on a European launcher,” said Lynn Bamford, SVP and GM of Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division.

“Our unique Smart Backplane technology enables radiation-tolerant electronics to be used in many applications across many market sectors, allowing lower-cost COTS modules to be reliably used in harsh space environments.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic