UCD to host workshop for future Irish satellite programme

7 Mar 2016

As part of the ever-increasing interest in space technologies in Ireland, University College Dublin (UCD) and the Irish Space Industry Group are to hold a workshop to develop an Irish satellite programme.

Following Ireland’s belated entry into the European Southern Observatory (ESO) last year and our long participation in the European Space Agency (ESA), the beginnings of an Irish satellite programme is the country’s next step in bringing it to the big leagues of space.

At Inspirefest 2015, Susan McKenna-Lawlor announced the astounding news that she was attempting to lead the launch of Ireland’s first satellite, to be called Cumar, and make history in the progress.

But now, the Irish Space Industry Group (ISIG) – a partnership of some of Ireland’s largest spacetech companies – is in the early stages of laying out how our indigenous companies can progress from simply just assisting on ESA projects, to doing it on our own, too.

On 10 March, in the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science, there will be an open workshop for companies or groups to offer serious solutions to getting an Irish satellite programme off the ground.

It will also be an opportunity for ISIG to identify areas of potential collaboration with other participants both from academia and industry.

The call for ideas follows ISIG’s announcement last month of the concept for an Irish satellite programme and the call for project submissions by the closing date of 24 March.

If you build it, you will sell

At that time, ISIG explained what uses such a programme could have: “Missions or services that can meet existing national needs, for example, in terms of security, shipping, land use, or international commitments, could have special attraction to government. For example, if space-based observations can provide solutions for the Irish State to commitments under EU or international law in the most affordable way then it will be more desirable.”

Speaking to The Irish Times, ISIG’s secretary, Dr Ronan Wall, who is also programme manager at Moog Dublin, said it will cost up to €2.5m per mission ideally, but a mission can be launched for as little as €100,000.

Dr Wall went on to say: “It builds capability. It puts us in a position to use know-how to bid for bigger and better contracts.”

“If you build something, technology or software or electronics that you try out in space, this puts you in a position to sell that product to ESA.”

Belfast coast from space image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic