A cúig, a ceathair, a trí, a dó, a haon... First Irish satellite to go into orbit in next few months

Eirsat-1, built and tested at UCD, is size of a shoebox and will be launched on a European Space Agency rocket, Tánaiste tells Cabinet

Ireland is to send its first satellite — called Eirsat-1 — into space in the coming months, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Cabinet.

The satellite, which has been designed, built and tested at UCD, will be launched on a European Space Agency (ESA) rocket from its base in French Guiana in South America either later this year or in the early months of next year, a spokesman for the Fine Gael leader told the weekly post-Cabinet briefing at Government Buildings on Tuesday.

The satellite, which is about the size of a shoebox, will go into low orbit around the earth (about 400km up) and will carry three “payloads”: a gamma ray detector; a space materials characterisation experiment; and a spacecraft control testbed.

Eirsat-1 stands for the Educational Irish Research Satellite 1. According to UCD, it must be able to “power itself, orientate itself in space, communicate to the ground station” — which is on the roof of the UCD School of Physics — and collect data from the three science experiments on board.


The project is led by students from a wide array of disciplines in the UCD School of Physics, the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and the School of Computer Science and is supported by industry partners and academic mentors, the university says.

Mr Varadkar was formally authorised by the Cabinet to sign an exchange of letters with the ESA on behalf of the Government, his spokesman said.

“Ireland, like other member states launching satellites under the ESA programme, must register the satellite with the UN. The memorandum brought by the Tánaiste sets out the mechanism to do so,” he said in a statement. “The letters will confirm that Ireland recognises Eirsat-1 as an Irish mission, and that Ireland intends to register Eirsat-1 on the UN Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.”

The Tánaiste also briefed Cabinet on the significant industrial and educational benefits of the project. These include in-orbit demonstration of technologies developed by Irish companies, and the development of a skills and knowledge base to make the State more competitive in the global space sector, he said.

Work on Eirsat-1 has been continuing since 2017, when UCD was selected for the project. The programme has seen two spacecraft cleanrooms developed at UCD, as well as students and academics gaining “extensive experience in space product development, along with software and system and environmental testing”, the Government said. The launch costs are covered by the ESA.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times