After years of development, the Educational Irish Research Satellite 1 (EIRSAT-1) is scheduled to launch in November, heralding Ireland’s entry into space exploration. EIRSAT-1 was constructed by students from University College Dublin (UCD) as part of the ESA Academy’s Fly Your Satellite! program, which supports university teams in building their own satellites.
The project, led by students from the UCD School of Physics and UCD College of Engineering, began in 2017 with a proposal to develop a CubeSat for gamma ray astronomy. EIRSAT-1 is a two-unit CubeSat equipped with three payloads. The primary payload, GMOD, is a gamma ray detector designed to study gamma ray bursts, the most luminous explosions in the universe. The secondary payloads include a thermal coating study to assess satellite surface treatments and an alternative spacecraft orientation control system.
The construction of EIRSAT-1 required collaboration between UCD and ESA experts over a span of six years. The students worked closely with ESA to design and build the satellite, and also participated in test campaigns at ESA Education’s CubeSat Support Facility in Belgium and other ESA sites. As part of the Fly Your Satellite! program, the students received guidance and support for all stages of a space mission, including launch and beyond.
One of the major challenges faced by EIRSAT-1 was the regulatory aspect, as it is Ireland’s first satellite. ESA worked closely with Irish authorities to establish EIRSAT-1 as a legally recognized satellite for Ireland. Additionally, the student team underwent training courses on spacecraft communications and other related subjects at ESA Academy’s training and learning center in Belgium, as well as at the European Space Operations Centre in Germany. This helped them develop Ireland’s first spacecraft operations procedures.
The project has also contributed to the development of crucial space infrastructure at UCD Dublin, including a cleanroom and mission control. These facilities enable the training of current and future students in operating EIRSAT-1 while in orbit, marking a significant milestone for space education and capacity building in Ireland.
EIRSAT-1 has departed Ireland and is en route to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA. The launch is scheduled for November 29 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This achievement marks the beginning of a new era in Irish space exploration, showcasing the talent and potential of young minds in the space sector. More information about ESA Education and its university-level education activities, such as Fly Your Satellite!, can be found at esa.int/Education/ESA_Academy.