European Space Agency (ESA) to launch two cornerstone missions today
The launch of the Herschel Space Observatory and the Planck Surveyor Satellite from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana today will send Irish technology developed by a research team at NUI Maynooth and two Irish companies, CAPTEC and Farran Technology, into space.
Through Ireland's involvement with ESA, which is managed by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Irish industry and researcher teams involved in the development of the Herschel & Planck spacecraft elements and payloads were awarded contracts estimated to be valued at circa €5.5m.
Two Irish companies contributed technology to the mission - Dublin based CAPTEC, who carried out Independent Software Validation & Verification (ISVV) on Herschel and Planck, and Farran Technology, a Cork company which supplied RF modules to the missions. On the research side, the Terahertz Optics Group of scientists at NUI Maynooth received funding to work on a key instrument on board the Herschel observatory, the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI). This Irish participation has been facilitated by Enterprise Ireland.
The NUI Maynooth research team led by Prof Anthony Murphy and Dr Neil Trappe, has contributed significantly to the testing and calibration of the HIFI instrument and will be assisting the ESA team responsible for analysing the data sent back from space by Herschel. The HIFI will look at very distant galaxies and send back information about the gas in inter-stellar space, including the chemistry and dynamics of gas clouds where stars are born.
Professor Murphy's team has also received ESA funding through Enterprise Ireland to work on the high frequency instrument (HFI) on board the Planck satellite, which will be looking at the cosmic microwave background and the faint afterglow of the Big Bang.
Speaking in advance of the launch, Professor Murphy said;
"Today's launch of Herschel and Planck is a milestone in the Irish space sector. The data collected using the HFI on board Planck will tell us things like the age of the universe, the rate at which it is expanding and what the future of the universe looks like. NUI Maynooth's involvement in this project has led to a substantial enhancement of our research expertise and international profile, which will be important for the involvement at NUIM in future ESA programmes. In the process it has also made possible the state-of-the-art technical education and research training of a number of PhD students".
Herschel, ESA's cutting-edge space observatory, will carry the largest, most powerful infrared telescope ever flown in space. A pioneering mission to study the origin and evolution of stars and galaxies, it will help understand how the Universe came to be what it is today.
ESA's Planck mission will be the first European space observatory whose main goal is the study of the Cosmic Microwave Background - the relic radiation from the Big Bang.
Herschel and Planck will start their journey in space on board an Ariane 5 ECA rocket departing from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana today at 14:12 (GMT).
Watch the launch live online at
For further information contact:
|Grace Labanyi, Communications Officer, Enterprise Ireland|
Tel: +353 (0)1 7272746 or 0353 (0)87 3286404