The future looks bright for the space sector in Ireland.
Last year saw record growth in the number of Enterprise Ireland companies engaging with the European Space Agency (ESA), 94 organisations in total, with 14 of those companies securing first time contracts in 2021.
Overall, ESA placed contracts with a combined value of €15.8m with 36 Irish-based companies, with an additional €4.8m in industry co-funding.
“We have increased our financial contribution to the European Space Agency which is paid back in terms of valuable contracts for Irish technology companies and their impressively talented workforce”
Irish companies became increasingly active in developing space-based solutions – including participating in the biggest space story of 2021 – the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), as well as incorporating advanced satellite systems to address a range of global challenges.
Aces of space
These challenges include climate change and impacts on specific sectors such as agriculture, water quality & biodiversity, as well as offshore and renewable energy.
- Réaltra Space Systems Engineering designed and manufactured the video system that was mounted on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle – the first time such a video system has been on a European launcher. The system relayed high-definition video images of the telescope as it separated from the launcher’s fairing (equipment that enclosed and protected the Webb telescope during launch) as it began its journey to its final orbit location.
- Two Irish companies have partnered to assess the potential of satellite-based services for use in the renewable marine energy industry. Mindseed, a Dublin-based ICT consultancy has teamed up with Cork-based wave technology specialist Ocean Energy to assess the potential benefits of utilising satellite-based services within the marine energy sector to address key operational challenges
In line with the National Space Strategy for Enterprise, Irish companies are also increasingly exploiting space technologies in non-space markets, including the automotive, energy, agri-food and medical device markets. These include:
- Dublin-based Davra Networks is working on a Lifesaving Location Service (LifeLoS) initiative, which can be used by any hospital, nursing home or home care service. The solution will, with ESA support, integrate advanced satellite positioning and communications systems to track and trace ‘free-to-move’ patients in indoor and outdoor spaces and will enable rapid response to possible incidents
- , a Cork based forestry company, has developed a Global Forest Monitoring Platform using satellite data to determine crop health, unexpected loss due to natural and man-made disasters and have recently added a service to measure carbon sequestration around the globe.
The 2021 report of activities was launched this week at the ESA Council of Ministers meeting in Paris. This meeting brings together Ministers from ESA’s Member States, Associate States and Cooperating States to make critical decisions that will strengthen Europe’s space sector and ensure it continues to serve European citizens.
Representing Ireland at the Council of Ministers meeting, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, said: “I am delighted to highlight the significant contribution innovative Irish companies are making in the global space sector. Ireland’s membership of ESA is of huge importance in growing jobs and increasing economic activity in participating firms. We have increased our financial contribution to the European Space Agency which is paid back in terms of valuable contracts for Irish technology companies and their impressively talented workforce.
“The future for the space sector in Ireland looks extremely bright – recently the Tánaiste and I signed an Exchange of Letters with ESA to facilitate the launch next year of Ireland’s first satellite, EIRSAT1 which has been designed and built by academic staff and students at University College Dublin (UCD). I look forward to watching it launch early next year from French Guiana on board an ESA launch vehicle. The Government, through Enterprise Ireland, is committed to supporting Irish businesses to advance in the space sector and to help grow their impressive contribution to European and global space activities.”
Joe Madden, National Delegation to ESA, Enterprise Ireland, said: “Irish companies continued to offer innovative solutions to the global space sector in 2021, particularly through the inclusion of advanced technologies from other industrial sectors which are addressing pressing global issues, in particular climate change and the carbon reduction agenda.
The scope of Irish involvement in space-related activities has increased substantially, with close to 100 Irish companies and a growing number of research teams actively involved in space-related developments supported by ESA, through Enterprise Ireland.”
Ireland has been a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 1975. In that time, it has participated in a number of high-profile ESA missions supported by technologies developed by Irish industry and research communities.