Irish tech aboard NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket launch

Dublin company Skytek’s technology blasted into space aboard Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA mission to the International Space Station.

While the world watched the rocket blast off on Saturday to bring a manned mission to the International Space Station, few in Ireland were aware that technology built in this country by a company called Skytek was also aboard.

This was the first crewed mission to be launched from American soil since the retirement of the US space agency NASA shuttles nine years ago.

“It’s very exciting to see our software being used in ISS missions, not least a pioneering one like this”

Dublin-based Skytek’s IPV Tablet system will be used to provide advanced astronaut support on the International Space Station (ISS). With the system, astronauts will have access to over 14,000 operational procedures, which support all operational activities on board.

With astronaut’s time being so valuable any efficiency improvements for task execution that can be achieved is of major significance.

Skytek has built the latest version based on the specific needs of astronauts, commercial operators and procedure authors which streamlines and optimises astronaut’s workflow. The execution of scientific experiments or high risk visiting vehicles docking manoeuvres, are performed according to procedures within IPV.

Stellar software

“It’s very exciting to see our software being used in ISS missions, not least a pioneering one like this,” said Skytek founder Dr Sarah Bourke.

Skytek is a satellite and space technology company with offices in Dublin, Belfast and Oxford, UK. It is led by founder Dr.Sarah Bourke, who recently won a top EU award for woman innovators.  Skytek works closely with NASA, the European Space Agency and Airbus Defence & Space.

It has successfully commercialised its space technology within the insurance industry and has recently formed a strategic partnership with AON, a global leader in the insurance industry.

The launch this weekend under NASA’s “commercial crew program” will be the first time a private company has conducted a manned mission to the station.

With the ISS now a destination for commercial vehicles from both SpaceX and Boeing, new software solutions are required to support these commercial companies and related space activities.

“Skytek have been working directly with NASA to develop the software that will support these commercial businesses as they begin manned missions”, said Bourke.

SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is a private space transportation company and aerospace manufacturer headquartered in California. Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, also known for ventures such as PayPal and electric car pioneer Tesla Inc.

The company’s achievements include launching the first ever privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit and being the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft, as well as the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 1 June, 2020