Blast off: Ireland’s first satellite EIRSAT-1 to launch early next year

17 Oct 2022

UCD PhD students Gabriel Finneran and Maeve Doyle celebrate the next milestone for EIRSAT-1. Image: Jason Clarke

The Irish Government has now signed an agreement to facilitate the launch of the EIRSAT-1 satellite, which was developed by a team at UCD.

Ireland’s first satellite has reached a “huge milestone” on its journey into space.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD, today (17 October) signed an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) to facilitate the launch of the EIRSAT-1 satellite.

The news is the latest development in what is to be Ireland’s first space mission. It will see EIRSAT-1 launch from the ESA’s base in French Guiana early next year for a four-year mission.

EIRSAT-1 was designed and built by researchers and students at University College Dublin (UCD). A miniature cube satellite, or cubesat, it was first announced in 2017 and has been designed, built and tested by the UCD team.

Today’s signing comes following a Cabinet meeting earlier this month, during which the Irish Government authorised Varadkar to sign an exchange of letters on its behalf.

Four people sit around a table that has the EIRSAT-1 satellite on it.

Minister of State Damien English, TD; Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD; Prof Orla Feely, vice-president for research, innovation and impact at UCD; and Prof Lorraine Hanlon from the UCD School of Physics. Image: Jason Clarke

In signing the letters, the Government and ESA set out their mutual understanding of the EIRSAT-1 mission. The Tánaiste also signed a registration and supervision agreement with UCD, which sets out the details required for the registration and supervision of the mission throughout its lifetime.

“This is a big moment for the Irish space sector,” said Varadkar.

“It has huge spin-off potential for Irish businesses and universities. We have increased our financial contribution to the European Space Agency, which is paid back in multiples in terms of contracts for Irish aviation and aerospace companies.”

Varadkar also paid tribute to the “talented team in UCD” for their work in developing EIRSAT-1. He added that the team facilitated the development of “space systems skills that did not previously exist in Irish industry or academia”.

EIRSAT-1 is an educational research satellite. Its mission is to provide training for students in all major aspects of satellite development, under the guidance of academics, industry mentors and the ESA.

It has received funding from Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council, Enterprise Ireland, UCD, Openet, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the European Space Education Resource Office.

Prof Lorraine Hanlon, director of EIRSAT-1 and the UCD Centre for Space Research, said it was a “huge milestone for the mission” to be signing these agreements today. “We are excited to keep working towards launch and operations next year.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.