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Major Milestone on Ireland’s Journey into Space

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English have signed an Exchange of Letters with the European Space Agency (ESA) to facilitate the launch of Ireland’s first satellite, which has been designed and built by academic staff and students at University College Dublin (UCD). This is a major milestone on Ireland’s journey into space.

This marks a historic milestone in Ireland’s first space mission, which will see the launch of EIRSAT-1 for a 4-year mission from ESA’s base in French Guiana early next year.

The Exchange of Letters between the Government of Ireland and the European Space Agency sets out their mutual understanding of the EIRSAT-1 mission, the first Irish mission carried out under Ireland’s domestic jurisdiction.

The government granted authorisation to the Tánaiste to sign the letters on their behalf at the Cabinet meeting.

The Tánaiste and UCD also signed a Registration and Supervision Agreement which sets out the details required for the registration and supervision of the mission throughout its lifetime.

The Tánaiste said, “this is a big moment for the Irish space sector as this is Ireland’s first mission into space. It has huge spin off potential for Irish businesses and universities. We have increased our financial contribution to the European Space Agency which is paid back in multiples in terms of contracts for Irish aviation and aerospace companies.”

“EIRSAT-1 has been led by a talented team in UCD, and seen the development of space systems skills that did not previously exist in Irish industry or academia. It will position our nation to benefit from global space industry growth in the coming decades.”

Minister of State Damien English said, “it’s a great testament to the hard work by the entire EIRSAT-1 team that they have progressed the project to this exciting stage. Through their energy, determination and expertise, coupled with Ireland’s membership of the European Space Agency, we are now almost ready to launch and operate our first ever satellite in outer space. It has been a pleasure to watch the development of this ambitious project, and I look forward to watching it blast-off early next year from French Guiana.”

UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, Professor Orla Feely said, “UCD is delighted to mark this moment with the EIRSAT-1 team, who have worked tirelessly for five years on this challenging mission. The EIRSAT-1 project, with its strong student focus, shows what can be achieved when we invest in the development of skills and talent within science and technology. As we approach the launch, we look forward to the further talent development, exciting research, international collaborations and industrial impact that will be enabled by this trailblazing project.”

Director of UCD C-Space Centre and the EIRSAT-1 project, Professor Lorraine Hanlon said, “Ireland’s membership of the European Space Agency has been vital to EIRSAT-1’s development, both in the early stages, when we were developing prototype space detectors based on Irish technologies, and more recently, when EIRSAT-1 was accepted on to ESA’s educational ‘Fly Your Satellite!’ Programme. It is a huge milestone for the mission to be signing these agreements, and we are excited to keep working towards launch and operations next year.”

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