SpaceX successfully launches Ireland’s first satellite

December 5, 2023  - By
EIRSAT-1, Ireland’s first satellite. (Image: ESA)

EIRSAT-1, Ireland’s first satellite. (Image: ESA)

The Educational Irish Research Satellite, EIRSAT-1, has successfully launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, on Dec. 1, 2023. Hitching a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher, the small satellite has made history as Ireland’s first satellite.  

 Over the course of six years, EIRSAT-1 was designed, built and tested by students from University College Dublin (UCD) in Dublin, Ireland, participating in the European Space Agency (ESA) Academy’s Fly Your Satellite Program. The program is a hands-on initiative that helps university student teams develop their own satellites according to professional standards. The launch opportunity itself was provided by the ESA. 

 Throughout the development of the satellite, ESA experts provided training and guidance to dozens of UCD students, the ESA said. The students’ learning journey included test campaigns at ESA Education’s CubeSat Support Facility in Belgium, as well as dedicated spacecraft communications sessions at both ESA Academy’s Training and Learning Centre and the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. These sessions were designed to teach the procedures for operating Ireland’s first spacecraft.  

From low-Earth-orbit (LEO), EIRSAT-1 will carry out three main experiments, which were built from scratch by the students: 

  • GMOD, a detector to study gamma ray bursts, which are the most luminous explosions in the universe and occur when a massive star dies or two stars collide. 
  • EMOD, an experiment to see how a thermal treatment protects the surface of a satellite when in space. 
  • WBC, an experiment to test a new method of using Earth’s magnetic field to change a satellite’s orientation in space. 

Following EIRSAT-1’s deployment to orbit, the student team is now working to establish contact with the satellite and start operations from their dedicated ground control facility, also entirely operated by students and located at UCD in Dublin.