Ireland puts first satellite into orbit

Ireland has become the latest country to join the space race after the country’s first satellite was successfully launched aboard the Space-X Falcon-9 launch pad from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

EIRSAT-1, known as EIRSAT-1, is the culmination of six years of work by University College Dublin students under the auspices of the European Space Agency’s Fly Your Satellite programme.

More than 50 students from the university’s physics, mathematics, mechanical science and computer science departments are involved in the project, which is part of a project costing just 1.5 million euros ($1.63 million).

„This is Ireland’s first time in space, fulfilling a lifelong dream for many,” said Neil Richmond, the country’s Minister for Business, Employment and Retail.

UCD President Orla Feeley said: „From their initial plans for 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, engineering and building the satellite, the UCD team has been involved in space education, research and development in Ireland. It has taken a significant step towards capacity building.”

ESA’s Director General Joseph Aschbacher praised UCD for its contribution to the pursuit of one of the agency’s general educational goals, developing the skills of younger generations.

„Through our education program, we are raising generations of citizens who will learn to use space technology and space solutions to make a difference for our society, our planet and our future,” said Aschbacher.

The Irish Times newspaper described the variety of satellites, known as CubeSats, as „no bigger than a house brick, but incredibly sophisticated”.

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„It carries onboard equipment to carry out three experiments, one for gamma ray radiation, the second for temperature regulation in space and the third for pointing satellites in the right direction,” the newspaper said.

Speaking before the launch, PhD student Quan de Barra, who is responsible for the satellite’s testing and operations, said the project had been a steep learning curve.

„No one knows how to build or launch a satellite,” he told the BBC. But now that it’s been successfully completed, he said, „I can’t wait to speak for the first time.”

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