UCD launches new centre for space research

15 Dec 2020

Researchers working on EIRSAT-1. Image: UCD

The C-Space research centre at UCD will tap into technological and economic opportunities in the growing European space industry.

University College Dublin (UCD) has launched Ireland’s first dedicated hub for space-related research, innovation and education.

C-Space, the UCD Centre for Space Research, aims to boost Ireland’s space industry with interdisciplinary collaborative research, and provide skills and training for jobs of the future.

The centre will focus on astrophysics, Earth observation, gamma-ray detectors, nanosatellites and payloads, space materials and more.

‘Our purpose is to build academic and industrial partnerships that advance the use of space to address global scientific and societal challenges’

Prof Lorraine Hanlon from the UCD School of Physics will be the new centre’s director.

“As well as performing excellent space-related fundamental and applied interdisciplinary research, our purpose is also to build academic and industrial partnerships that advance the use of space to address global scientific and societal challenges,” Hanlon said.

Enterprise opportunities

C-Space will offer university-based courses such as a master’s programme in space science and technology, and will also build on national projects such as EIRSAT-1, Ireland’s first satellite.

Prof Orla Feely, vice-president for research, innovation and impact at UCD, said the new space centre is an important step in Ireland’s “journey to develop a strong and sustainable space industry”.

“UCD has a distinguished record in astrophysics and space research dating from the 1960s and continuing to the present day with the development of EIRSAT-1,” she added.

“With the launch of C-Space, UCD will build our academic and industry relationships across the global space sector, developing our talent at home and maximising for Ireland the many technological and economic opportunities in this exciting field.”

It is hoped that work at the centre will help meet the demands of the expanding Irish space sector and support the Government’s National Space Strategy for Enterprise. C-Space will work with industry through consultancy, collaborations and access to test facilities.

The hands of a researcher working on satellite technology.

Construction of EIRSAT-1 in a clean room in the UCD School of Physics. Image: UCD

The European space economy is valued at around €50bn, according to the European Commission, and Irish companies are increasingly becoming part of this sector.

Tom Kelly, divisional manager for innovation and competitiveness at Enterprise Ireland, said the launch of C-Space comes at an “exciting time” as the agency has been working closely with Irish companies that are bidding for European Space Agency (ESA) contracts.

“We have seen the steady growth of Irish companies developing highly innovative technologies for the European space programme and the wider global market,” he added.

Some of the companies that have recently secured ESA contracts include Skytek and PMD Solutions for projects using satellite tech, Lios for the development of an acoustic material for space transportation, and Icon Group for an environmental monitoring project. Technology from Dublin-based companies InnaLabs and Ubotica Technologies has also been used on recent ESA missions.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic