European Space Agency contract win for Limerick firm

2 Dec 2014

Pictured: Bryan Rodgers, ESA Delegate (Enterprise Ireland), Barry Lunn, CEO Arralis and Mike Gleaves, CTO Arralis.

Limerick-based tech company Arralis has won a lucrative contract to supply semiconductors to the European Space Agency that will feature in future unmanned spacecraft landings.

Arralis designs and manufactures high frequency semiconductor chips, modules and antennas up to and beyond 110GHz.

Under the contract Arralis will deliver a 94GHz radar chipset with space end-use applications, such as unmanned landing of spacecraft and to identify and avoid space debris. 

“We see this contract as a real endorsement of our unique engineering expertise and the success of our design team to date, at previously unattainable frequencies,” explained Arralis CEO Barry Lunn.

“The most exciting aspect of this contract for us is that ESA’s very experienced millimetre wave group will work with us throughout the delivery process.

“Their experience in bringing MMICs through to space qualification is invaluable and since kick off it’s been obvious that both sides are enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.”

Making remote planetary landings more successful

Previous radar systems used by international space agencies worked well when being controlled by an astronaut to guide the craft onto a suitable site; however, remote planetary landings have been difficult and prone to failure.

The 94GHz radar system, developed by Arralis, can be used to identify dangerous landing zones with the identification of small objects, such as rocks, which may cause damage to the spacecraft.

With the amount of space junk objects currently orbiting the Earth estimated to be 700,000 larger then 1cm and more than 170 million larger than 1mm, debris avoidance has never been a more critical issue when you consider the expensive satellite real-estate which could be damaged.

“Arralis is another example of an Irish company developing a highly innovative technology for the European space programme,” the Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation Damien English TD said.

“The technology also has potential for use by the commercial space and aerospace market with the support of ESA.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years