QUB to launch first Irish Satellite

Ireland is preparing to launch its first ever satellite in space, with the help of Queen’s University Belfast.

Led by researchers and students at Queen’s and University College Dublin (UCD), in partnership with five Irish companies, the EIRSAT-1 satellite will be launched from the International Space Station and will orbit for 12 months if it passes the stringent testing of the European Space Agency (ESA).

EIRSAT-1 will gather data on Gamma Ray Bursts and will test innovative Irish space technologies.

It is being developed under the ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! 2017 programme and those involved hope it will inspire more young people to take up the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and maths.

The project will provide training and education for graduates and undergraduate students in all major aspects of satellite development, under expert guidance from academic and industry mentors and ESA. Industry partners include Resonate Testing, ENBIO, SensL, Parameter Space and Moog Dublin.

The mission is testing two state-of-the-art payloads in space environment; GMOD payload – a y-ray detector based on a design developed at UCD and under contract to ESA, and EMOD payload – to provide first flight of the ENBIO’s SolarBlack and SolarWhite thermal management coatings developed for Solar Orbiter.

Dr Gasser Abdelal from Queen’s is leading the design, manufacturing, and testing of the EirSat-1 structure, mechanisms and thermal subsystems. He commented: “This is one remarkable step for academic staff on the project, and one giant leap for our aerospace degree students.

“This mission will allow our students at Queen’s and students across the whole island of Ireland, to advance knowledge in space science and engineering. This key objective of this mission is to inspire the next generation of students to study STEM subjects and address skills shortages in the space sector.

“A lot of hard work and innovation is waiting for our aerospace students to meet the technical challenges of designing and manufacturing a structure frame that hosts the two EirSat-1 Payloads (GMOD & EMOD). GMOD has a scintillating material that is sensitive to vibrations and requires special support design.”

Professor Lorraine Hanlon of UCD’s School of Physics and lead Professor said: “This success has been made possible through sustained support from Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland and ESA, combined with a team of outstanding students at undergraduate and graduate level in space science, physics and engineering, who will build and operate the satellite.

“Our students will have an amazing opportunity to learn, not only from the wealth of expertise at ESA, but also from the other excellent teams participating in the programme from across Europe.”

The satellite will orbit the Earth gathering data for approximately 12 months and will be managed and controlled from UCD, where a ground station in the School of Physics at UCD will be the command centre.