Thursday 23 May 2019

Maeve reaches for the stars

Charleville student developing software for first Irish satellite

Michael McGrath

Scientist Maeve Doyle, a past pupil of St Mary's Secondary School Charleville, is the lead in developing the on-board software for Ireland's first ever satellite, which is being developed by a team of students at University College Dublin.

Details of the satellite, EIRSAT-1, were announced by John Halligan TD, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development last week, after the first phase of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Fly Your Satellite Programme, the Critical Design Review, was completed. This marks an important milestone for the project and moves it a step closer to launching into space.

The sixteen strong interdisciplinary team of postgraduate UCD students, who are building the satellite with the support of the ESA's education office, will now go on to the next phase of the project which is to assemble and test the an ERSAT-1 prototype in newly installed clean rooms at the university.

Minister Halligan said the project provides the student team with the opportunity to develop skills in satellite development, which will have an impact beyond those directly participating in the project in expanding the space industry sector in Ireland. EIRSAT-1 is a miniature satellite, or Cube Sat, and is comparable to the size of an average shoebox.

Subject to passing further reviews and mission milestones, EIRSAT-1 is expected to be delivered to ESA in mid-2020 with three scientific experiments on board. Once in orbit the satellite will communicate data to Earth through ground radio stations located at the EIR-SAT1 mission control in the UCD School of Physics.

Maeve Doyle, who is a daughter of Cllr. Ian and Angie Doyle of Newtownshandrum, Charleville, went to St. Mary's Secondary School in Charleville.

"The teachers were amazing and always enthusiastic. This enthusiasm inspired my interest in the sciences, in particular Physics," said Maeve.

Following secondary school, she undertook an undergraduate degree at Maynooth University doing Physics with Astrophysics. Maeve then pursued a two-year research Masters with the Space Science group at UCD. At the beginning of the second year of this programme she joined the EIRSAT-1 team, and is now just starting her PhD, which is largely focused on this mission.

With regards to her role on the mission team, she is the lead on-board software developer for the EIRSAT-1 mission, developing software with a group of other UCD students.

"The software we are now writing will go on EIRSAT-1's computer and will determine how the satellite behaves while in space," said Maeve.