Aeronautical engineer and researcher from Mayo to go to space

Dr Patten is expected to travel on board Virgin Galactic’s commercial spacecraft Delta next year, the space flight company announced on Thursday

Dr Norah Patten's ultimate dream is to visit the International Space Station. Photograph: Sean Curtin

Dr Norah Patten, a Co Mayo aeronautical engineer and researcher, is hoping to become the first Irish person to travel into space.

Dr Patten, who works for Réaltra Space Systems Engineering in Coolock, north Dublin, is expected to travel on-board Virgin Galactic’s commercial spacecraft Delta as early as 2026, the company announced on Thursday.

Dr Patten will form part of a three-woman crew set to travel into space to carry out research for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS). Established in 2015, IIAS is a US not-for-profit organisation that offers educational courses and research opportunities in aeronomy, flight-test engineering and other niches of space science.

On-board the Delta spacecraft, Dr Patten’s research will focus on building on information gathered on a previous research space flight collaboration between Virgin Galactic and IIAS last year, testing novel healthcare technologies and looking at how fluids behave in low gravity. The IIAS crew will also test “novel biomedical research”.


“The mission is anticipated to take place within the first year of Delta commercial service, which remains on track to commence in 2026,” a spokesperson for Virgin Galactic said.

The spacecraft will reach suborbital space – over 80km above Earth – but it will not orbit Earth. From lift off to descent and landing, the whole journey is expected to last less than two hours.

Dr Patten, along with her prospective crewmates Dr Kellie Gerardi and Dr Shawna Pandya, has “demonstrated the teamwork, excellence, and expertise needed to produce high-quality, cutting-edge research in operational environments”, a spokesperson for IIAS said.

“We’ll be collaborating closely with academic, government, and commercial partners to meticulously plan the crew’s activities to maximise science and technology returns.”

Dr Patten has previous research experience in microgravity environments and the testing of commercial spacesuits. She holds a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Limerick.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist