Eirsat-1, Ireland makes space history with the launch of its 1st satellite

  • Ireland’s Maiden Satellite Launch: Ireland successfully launched its first satellite, Eirsat-1, into low-Earth orbit from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base via SpaceX Falcon 9 on December 1.
  • Educational Focus: Developed by 50 students at University College Dublin (UCD), Eirsat-1 aims to engage students of all ages in space science, providing hands-on experience in building and operating a satellite.
  • Operational Success: Eirsat-1 unfolded and deployed its antenna an hour and a half post-launch. By December 2, it made contact with ground control and, by December 4, began transmitting and receiving data as expected.
  • Scientific Payloads: The satellite carries three instruments – Gamma-Ray Detector (GMOD), ENBIO Module (EMOD), and Wave-Based Control (WBC). GMOD aims to detect gamma-ray bursts from cosmic events, while EMOD tests thermal surface treatments. WBC explores altitude control using magnetic fields.
  • Educational Impact: Eirsat-1 is expected to remain in orbit for at least two and a half years, offering a nominal mission duration. The longer-term impact is envisioned in training future space scientists and engineers, fostering hands-on experience for the next generation.
  • Legacy on Irish Education and Industry: While Eirsat-1’s scientific contributions are significant, its lasting impact may lie in inspiring students and demonstrating that building satellites is achievable within a university setting, potentially catalyzing ongoing space activities in Irish industry and education.
An illustration shows Eirsat-1 in orbit around Earth. (Image credit: ESA/UCD/ Robert Lea)
An illustration shows Eirsat-1 in orbit around Earth. (Image credit: ESA/UCD/ Robert Lea)

Ireland Enters Space: Inaugural Satellite Launch Marks Milestone

Ireland has officially become a member of the space community as it successfully launched its inaugural satellite into low-Earth orbit. This milestone opens up exciting opportunities for students of all ages across the country to engage in the field of space science.

Named the Educational Irish Research Satellite-1 (Eirsat-1), the satellite embarked on its space journey from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, riding atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 1. Approximately an hour and a half post-launch, the compact satellite, resembling a house brick in size, unfurled and deployed its antenna.

Eirsat-1 established communication with its operators on Earth through ground stations on December 2, demonstrating normal functionality. By December 4, the ground control team was joyfully receiving and transmitting data from the diminutive satellite.

Crafted by a team of about 50 students from University College Dublin (UCD), Eirsat-1 is currently in commissioning mode. However, it is anticipated to transition into operational mode in the coming weeks, initiating the collection of valuable scientific data.

David Murphy, a postdoctoral researcher in UCD Space Science and a key contributor to Eirsat-1 over the past six years, shared his emotions about witnessing the satellite’s journey into space. “It really was quite incredible. You see these launches streamed online all the time, but it’s a completely different thing to see it with your own eyes and to have that investment of having a payload on the rocket,” said Murphy, expressing the overwhelming experience and the tears of joy that ensued.

Eirsat-1’s Mission: Gamma-Ray Detection and Thermal Material Trials

Let’s take a closer look at the experiments aboard Eirsat-1, each playing a crucial role in unraveling scientific mysteries and supporting upcoming space missions.

Eirsat-1 is equipped with three primary instruments, known as scientific payloads. According to David Murphy, one of the researchers involved in the project, these instruments include the Gamma-Ray Detector (GMOD), the ENBIO Module (EMOD) featuring a thermal materials experiment, and the Wave-Based Control (WBC) control algorithm.

GMOD is designed to detect high-energy electromagnetic radiation known as gamma rays, situated beyond the interference of Earth’s atmosphere. The data collected by GMOD has the potential to unveil the origins of powerful bursts of gamma radiation. These bursts are believed to stem from intense cosmic events like supernovas—explosions resulting from the deaths of massive stars—and the collision of celestial bodies such as neutron stars, black holes, or a combination of both. GMOD is anticipated to detect approximately 10 gamma-ray bursts annually.

On the other hand, the EMOD experiment on Eirsat-1 focuses on testing the thermal surface treatments SolarWhite and SolarBlack. These treatments are currently utilized near the sun by the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter mission but are untested in low-Earth orbit. The experiment aims to understand how oxygen atoms around Earth, which are absent in Solar Orbiter’s operating environment, might impact spacecraft surfaces. The valuable data collected by EMOD could be instrumental in developing surfaces for future spacecraft, considering potential erosion caused by these oxygen atoms.

These experiments aboard Eirsat-1 not only contribute to solving scientific puzzles but also hold the promise of enhancing our understanding of outer space and advancing the technologies crucial for future space exploration.

Navigating Space with Waves: Eirsat-1’s Wave-Based Control Experiment

Additionally, Eirsat-1 features the Wave-Based Control (WBC) experiment, a cutting-edge technology employing generated magnetic fields within the spacecraft to interact with Earth’s magnetic fields and control altitude. Looking ahead, this technology could be adapted to influence the rotation of satellites, enabling spacecraft to navigate on magnetic waves with minimal power consumption, low mass, and no moving parts.

David Murphy highlighted the anticipated duration of Eirsat-1’s mission, stating, “At the moment, it looks like we’re going to have at least two and a half years in orbit with Eirsat-1.” This timeframe represents the nominal mission, during which the satellite will be utilized to train students. Murphy emphasized the commitment to leveraging this asset for educational purposes, providing hands-on experience to the next generation of space scientists and engineers.

Bas Stijnen, a UCD PhD student and Eirsat-1 team member, acknowledged that the satellite had been deployed at a slightly lower orbit than initially desired. However, this lower orbit is expected to extend Eirsat-1’s operational lifespan to approximately four years before it naturally deorbits. Stijnen emphasized the importance of utilizing this time effectively to conduct the planned scientific investigations.

Some of the EIRSAT-1 team in June 2022 (Image: Eirsat-1)
Some of the EIRSAT-1 team in June 2022 (Image: Eirsat-1)

While the scientific endeavors of Eirsat-1 are compelling, David Murphy underscored that the satellite’s most enduring and impactful legacy might be its influence on education and industry in Ireland. “Hopefully, we’ve inspired the next generation of students to build the next Irish satellite and the next Irish satellite after that, and shown that it can be done in a university, and that this is something that many universities across Ireland can achieve,” Murphy concluded. The hope is that Eirsat-1 marks the beginning of sustained space activities within Irish industry and education.

Google News Icon

Get latest updates on Google News

Source(s): Space

The information above is curated from reliable sources, modified for clarity. Slash Insider is not responsible for its completeness or accuracy. Please refer to the original source for the full article. Views expressed are solely those of the original authors and not necessarily of Slash Insider. We strive to deliver reliable articles but encourage readers to verify details independently.