After six years of designing, building, and testing, EIRSAT-1, the first satellite to be launched by Ireland, is now ready for launch. Developed entirely by students at University College Dublin (UCD), this cube satellite, also known as a cubesat, will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the end of November from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
EIRSAT-1 is an initiative supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) Academy, specifically its ‘Fly Your Satellite!’ program. This program aims to assist university students in Europe in building, launching, and operating their own satellites for space research. The project began in 2017 and is a flagship project of the UCD Centre for Space Research, UCD School of Physics, and UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
Once in low-Earth orbit, EIRSAT-1 will conduct three different experiments. Its primary task is to study gamma-ray bursts, which are the most luminous explosions in the universe. The satellite will also perform a thermal coating study to evaluate the performance of surface treatments for satellites, as well as test an alternative system for controlling spacecraft orientation.
Prof Lorraine Hanlon, director of the project, expressed excitement about Ireland’s first satellite. She credited the hard work of the team, along with the support of the university, the Irish government, and Irish industry, for reaching this milestone.
Head of the ESA Academy, Joost Vanreusel, highlighted UCD’s expertise in space science and astrophysics, emphasizing how the students overcame the challenges of this complex engineering project.
International collaborations, such as EIRSAT-1, are crucial for space research, according to Prof Sheila McBreen, an astrophysicist at UCD. McBreen emphasized the importance of working in teams and being part of space agencies for large and expensive missions that can take up to 20 years to complete.
EIRSAT-1 represents an exciting milestone for Ireland and UCD, showcasing their dedication to space research and innovation.