Skytek develops software for use on space station


The space shuttle Discovery delivered a valuable cargo of software developed by the small Irish firm Skytek for use on the International Space Station.

Skytek, a software company based in Dublin, has developed technology that will help to guide astronauts through their daily duties on board the space station.

The core software developed by Skytek took five years to develop and will take astronauts through procedures such as putting on a spacesuit and preparations for a shuttle docking.

It consists of an electronic manual software system that carries more than 3,000 procedures authored by North American Space Agency (Nasa). Astronauts access the system, which is called an IPV, on a daily basis via laptop computers. Nasa ground control can send new procedures to the team on the space station as required and log all the activity conducted by the crew.

"The system should improve the safety for astronauts by making it much easier for them to follow procedures and enabling ground control to better monitor actions," said Paul Kiernan, technical director and founder of Skytek, who noted that previously, astronauts had to rely on a ring binder full of procedures.

The system will be installed at the International Space Station over the next few weeks and is envisaged to become operational in mid-August.

Skytek has been one of the lead firms working on the electronic manual project with the International Space Station along with EADS and United Space Alliance.

Its multimillion euro deal with Nasa is likely to be extended as the International Space Station grows and new modules are added over the next decade, says Mr Kiernan, who added that this is one of the first ever contracts between Nasa and an Irish firm.

"There are a group of about 30 Irish firms working on space-related projects, but almost all of these are working with the European Space agency," he said.

Skytek was founded in 1999 by Mr Kiernan.