EIRSAT-1: Ireland successfully launches its first satellite into space
Posted 1 December 2023
EIRSAT-1, a student-built satellite from University College Dublin, has been successfully launched into space, officially becoming Ireland's first-ever satellite.
The miniature cube satellite, or cubesat, designed, built, and tested at UCD under guidance of the European Space Agency (ESA), took flight at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California aboard a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket Friday evening (IST), 1st December.
It was successfully deployed around 8pm IST when it was confirmed that EIRSAT-1 was correctly injected into low Earth orbit.
“This represents the culmination of a lot of work by a young team and a huge amount of support by the Irish space industry, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Enterprise Ireland, SFI and the IRC to deliver a thrilling result of Ireland in space,” said Professor Lorraine Hanlon, Director of EIRSAT-1 and the UCD Centre for Space Research (UCD C-Space).
“The next step now is to get used to operating our new spacecraft and get the maximum research and training out of it.”
The atmosphere post-launch was celebratory, said Dr Ronan Wall, UCD C-Space Manager, as members of the EIRSAT-1 watched their hard work blast off into space.
Adding: “It’s incredibly exciting and deeply satisfying to have finally joined other nations across Europe and the world that are positioned to do great research and innovation from our own spacecraft. We look forward to continuing to train and develop space expertise to support research and industry in Ireland. Go EIRSAT-1!”
Welcoming the successful launch and congratulating the members of the EIRSAT-1, UCD President Professor Orla Feely said the project had delivered outstanding research and developed talent throughout its six-year development.
“What a satisfying moment this must be for the Irish team: a remarkable first for the scientific community in Ireland,” she said.
“By joining the scientific expertise here at University College Dublin together with the ESA’s expertise in the building and testing of satellites and space systems, Ireland’s first satellite EIRSAT-1 has now successfully launched into space and reached its orbit around the earth.
“From their initial proposals to the ESA six years ago, to the cleanroom and Mission Control located on the UCD campus where students will operate EIRSAT-1 while in orbit, and of course the engineering and building of the satellite itself, the UCD team has taken a significant step for space education, research and capacity building in Ireland,” she added.
A flagship programme of UCD C-Space, the UCD School of Physics and UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, EIRSAT-1 was developed under the framework of ESA Academy’s ‘Fly Your Satellite!’ educational programme (FYS) - a fully hands-on initiative that aids university student teams build their own satellites according to professional standards, with ESA also providing launch opportunities.
Work on the project provided training for students in all major aspects of satellite development, and introduced space systems engineering and skills at UCD not previously seen across any Irish industry or academia.
Recognising the project as an official Irish space mission in 2022, the Government said its successful launch marked a “a major milestone” for the growing space industry in Ireland.
Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Neale Richmond TD offered his “heartfelt congratulations to the entire UCD academic and student team involved in this mission, supported by ESA and its Fly Your Satellite! Programme, and by Government of Ireland funding”.
“History was made here today, and everyone should be proud of the part they played in this milestone for Ireland and its space sector,” he added.
Dozens of UCD students, including nine PhDs candidates, worked with ESA experts to design and build EIRSAT-1 over the last six years, participating in test campaigns at ESA Education’s CubeSat Support Facility in Belgium, as well as attending dedicated spacecraft communications at ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Centre, and later at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt Germany, to learn Ireland’s first spacecraft operations procedures.
Some 20,000 hours were spent by students testing and problem solving ahead of EIRSAT-1’s voyage into space.
“I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate the EIRSAT-1 team for this successful launch and the start of Ireland’s first exciting adventure in orbit,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General.
“I’d also like to thank UCD for joining forces with ESA towards a common educational objective: boosting the skills of the young generation.
“It’s only by building capacity that we can make our space ambitions become a reality, for Ireland and for Europe. With our Education programme we are nurturing generations of citizens who are learning to use space technology and space solutions in order to make a difference for our society, our planet and our future.”
Now that it is in low earth orbit, EIRSAT-1 will carry out three experiments and report data back to its command centre at UCD.
Its primary task is to study gamma-ray bursts, the most luminous events in the universe, and will do so with a miniature detector built into its frame.
Its other payload includes a novel attitude control system designed by the Dynamics and Control Group in the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering that will ensure it is always pointed in the correct direction, as well as equipment to perform a thermal coating study to assess the performance of surface treatments for satellites developed in Ireland.
In addition, a co-created poem called ‘All Ways Home' is engraved on the outer cover of the antenna module in a formation like a spiral galaxy. It was written by 12 Irish school children working as part of a collaborative project across Ireland.
Alongside programmatic and educational support by the ESA Education Office, EIRSAT-1 received funding from Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Research Council, Enterprise Ireland, UCD, Openet, and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
The Irish European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO), a collaboration between ESA and SFI, supported the engagement of school students with inspiration and education activities around the EIRSAT-1 project.
By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations
To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: firstname.lastname@example.org