Irish engineers to blast telescopic boom into space from Arctic Circle

16 Mar 2012

The launch site for the REXUS 11 rocket at the Esrange Space Center, which will take Team Telescobe's telescopic boom into space

A team of DIT engineering students will next Thursday launch a telescopic boom system on the REXUS 11 rocket into space from the Arctic Circle.

Team Telescobe is a DIT engineering students group of post-graduates and undergraduates. The team includes Dinesh Vather, Mark Wylie, Johnalan Keegan, Mark Nolan, Keelan Keogh, Ronan Byrne, Sean Ludlow, Paul Duffy, Stephen Curran and Marek Rebow.

They set off for the Arctic Circle on Monday via Denmark and then Sweden. They travelled over Lapland, through Kiruna and have set up camp at the Esrange Space Center in the Swedish Arctic Circle.

Their project ‘Telescobe’ involves the design, build and flight of a telescopic boom system capable of being used to deploy E-Field and Langmuir probes for use in upper atmospheric research.

A telescopic boom system potentially makes more efficient use of the available space and mass on board a sounding rocket compared with other boom systems.

Frankie Whelan, a journalism graduate DIT sent over with the team to cover the rocket launch told “We’re on the Esrange Space Center base. It’s up past the Arctic Circle, with the nearest city being Kiruna further south. There’s literally nobody to the north of us due to the rocket launching. I think it may be one of the largest rocket testing ranges in the world due to the retrieval zone.

“We flew in on Monday and will be leaving Friday 23rd. The last three days have been all about building the experiment and placing it in the housing, etc., then tonight and the next two days will be a series of tests. If all goes to plan, the experiments will be mated to the rocket on Sunday, which is then locked away. REXUS 12 is due to launch on Tuesday, and REXUS 11 (ours) is due to launch on Thursday. As far as I’m aware, there’ll be multi-cam live streams of both of the rockets,” Whelan told


The REXUS/BEXUS programme is part of a bilateral agency agreement between the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board.

The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through a collaboration with the European Space Agency.

EuroLaunch, a co-operation between the Esrange Space Center of the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and the Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA) of DLR, is responsible for the campaign management and operations of the launch vehicles. Experts from ESA, SSC and DLR provide technical support to the student teams throughout the project.

This is the first Irish team to be selected for the project. The team was originally on the REXUS 9 rocket, but a fluke mechanical failure meant the hatch door never opened, so the boom wasn’t deployed.

Whelan explained that luckily for the team, another group dropped out of this year’s REXUS programme and the guys were invited back. “They’ve improved the system and at the moment all is looking good for a deployment on Thursday 22nd.”

A blog of Team Telescobe’s daring exploits can be accessed here.

rocket opened

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