Galway-made device heading to space on ESA satellite mission

1 Mar 2021

Tomás Flanagan. Image: ÉireComposites

ÉireComposites will create carbon-fibre stray light baffles for the ESA Altius satellite, which is expected to launch in 2023.

An Irish manufacturing company will produce an instrument for a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite that will assist climate research.

Galway-based ÉireComposites has today (1 March) announced an agreement with Belgian company OIP Sensor Systems to design and manufacture three carbon-fibre stray light baffles for the ESA’s Altius satellite.

These devices will prevent out-of-field stray light from reaching the lenses of the satellite’s optical instruments. Stray light baffles rely on highly controlled and precise manufacturing and finishing.

OIP forms part of a consortium that signed a contract with the ESA to build the Altius satellite, which is expected to be launched by end of 2023.

The mission will aid climate research, delivering profiles of the stratospheric ozone, as well as profiles of other atmospheric trace gases. This will provide scientific understanding on how the rise in greenhouse gases affects the atmosphere.

Major milestone for Irish space tech

ÉireComposite’s CEO, Tomás Flanagan, said the Altius satellite will signal “a major milestone for Irish participation in space exploration”.

“The Altius mission will play a substantial role in how we look at climate change and the impact it has on Earth. The mission will allow for long-term monitoring and scientific study of the protective ozone layer which covers Earth and inform decisions around climate change,” he added.

“I am excited that we will be part of this research and I would like to take the opportunity to commend the team here in Inverin [Co Galway] that have contributed to our success in obtaining this contract.”

Freddy Versluys, CEO of OIP Sensor Systems, said ÉireComposites was carefully selected to handle the carbon-fibre baffles. “We trust to establish a solid working cooperation with fruitful, positive results,” he said.

The project is funded by the ESA with support from Enterprise Ireland. Over the past year, ÉireComposites has also partnered with engineering services company ATG Innovation to develop a novel grid-stiffened lattice demonstrator for a launch vehicle.

Enterprise Ireland’s Tom Kelly said this contract win demonstrates the capacity of Irish tech companies to “compete in the highly challenging space market”.

“It also reflects the Government’s National Space Strategy for Enterprise to develop a cluster of Irish space technology companies through its ongoing investment in the European Space Agency,” he said.

Last month, another Irish-made device was sent to space on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The PayLoad Data Router system device measures tiny changes in microgravity and will help ESA conduct experiments in microgravity that would not be possible on Earth.

The device was manufactured in Dublin by an Irish subsidiary of US multinational Curtiss-Wright Avionics and Electronics Group along with Réaltra Space Systems Engineering.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic