Students hope to launch first ever Irish satellite
Published 02/04/2012 | 05:00
A TEAM of students are hoping to conquer the final frontier, with the launch of an Irish satellite into space.
The group of eight students from the Dublin Institute of Technology's (DIT) Bolton Street campus have submitted a proposal to take part in the European Commission's 'QB50' project.
The project, involving 30 universities from around the world, aims to design and launch a network of 50 miniature satellites to study the lower layers of the atmosphere known as the 'thermosphere' and 'ionosphere'.
The satellites, called 'CubeSats', will be launched 320km into space from Murmansk in northern Russia, where they will orbit the Earth.
If the team's proposal is accepted, it would be the first ever Irish- designed and built satellite to be launched into space.
Taking part in the project is Dinesh Vather (29), a post-graduate student in DIT's optomechanics faculty.
He is among the team of four postgraduate students and four undergraduates who recently returned from the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where they were the first students in Ireland to launch a probe into space.
The probe, designed and built on Bolton Street, is attached to the outside of a converted Cold War era surface-to-air missile where it travels "to the edge of space" and back down to Earth via a parachute in about six minutes.
The team, nicknamed "Team Telescobe" were selected from hundreds of other university students competing for a space on the rocket on which to test their design.
"We're the first and only Irish team to win an allotment on the rocket," Mr Vather said.
They travelled to the Esrange rocket range in northern Sweden as part of a programme run by the European Space Agency, where they launched their experimental telescopic probe 100km into space.
The probe would ultimately be deployed to take atmospheric readings and has already taken samples from the Aurora Borealis, he said.
The team now hopes that rocket scientists working with NASA and/or the European Space Agency will take their design on board.
"The ones currently used open like an umbrella and that takes up a lot of payload space in the rocket," he said.
"But our probe is much smaller and lighter," he said, noting that it is designed like a telescope that collapses to a compact size the same way that a TV aerial closes up.