Tuesday 21 November 2017

All set for space boom Ireland a rising star as research deals rocket

All set for space boom Ireland a rising star as research deals rocket

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

IRELAND'S space programme is set to rocket in the next three years with international contracts worth €75m likely to be carried out here for space-related research by 2015.

Thanks to our strong technology base, westerly geographic position and neutrality, Ireland has been ideally positioned for a surprise global boom in space-related commercial enterprises.

Space contracts have already doubled since 2007 and this year Ireland captured €10m worth of work from the European Space Agency (ESA) for non-profit related space activities.

However, of considerably more impact is €25m worth of additional commercial related space work for Irish companies which has landed this year.

"Ireland is actually perfectly placed to take advantage of this fast-growing field," says Tony McDonald, programme manager of space technologies at Enterprise Ireland which supports many of the new ventures.

"Firms like Aqua Central in Dublin are selling avionic systems for US launch systems, radiometers made by Farran Technology in Cork are being carried on satellites, Captec in Dublin makes software designed to be carried into space. These are actual components which are floating around in space today as we speak and all are made here in Ireland."

Enterprise Ireland has also supported the establishment of the National Space Centre, located at Elfordstown Earthstation in Midleton, Cork -- the county which has become 'Ireland's answer to Houston' is attracting by far the most investment.

Among the lucrative deals recently landed by the National Space Centre was an agreement in May with Roscosmos, the Russian national space agency. Next year Roscosomos will be using the Midleton centre as an arm of its space debris tracking operations -- Cork staff will monitor estimated 600,000 pieces of dangerous space debris which agencies need to avoid when launching rockets.

Last year the centre signed a contract with the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and it has seven international new international contracts pending consideration. It operates six contracts worth between €1m and €1.5m annually each.

"Aside from our westerly position which gives us a perfect placement for space monitoring antennae which most space agencies don't have, we have the huge benefit of being politically neutral which means that the Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Israelis and Americans are all happy to locate here for cooperative projects. Most other countries have past or current form which prevents that," says Space Centre boss Rory Fitzpatrick.

Enterprise Ireland is offering scholarships to students to enrol in the International Space University in Strasbourg and it is hoped that Irish graduates will also be soon joining the Russian cosmonaut programme.

Irish Independent

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