STUDENTS from University College Dublin (UCD) have successfully launched Ireland's first-ever satellite into space.
EIRSAT-1 took flight at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California aboard a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on Friday evening.
The satellite is engraved with a poem called All Ways Home, which was written by 12 Irish schoolchildren working as part of a collaborative project across Ireland.
Congratulating those behind the project, Neale Richmond TD expressed his pride as he recognised the launch as an official Irish space mission.
"I am truly honoured to witness history being made as EIRSAT-1 proudly leads the way as Ireland's first satellite being launched into space," said the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail.
"I know so many people have dedicated years to arrive at this moment, a moment that perhaps they only dreamed of up to now."
He added: "This is fulfilling a life’s dream for many of reaching for the stars as Ireland now takes its place in space for the first time.
"So, my heartfelt congratulations once again to all involved in making history and where EIRSAT-1 leads, may many, many more follow."
The culmination of six years of work by UCD students, EIRSAT-1 was developed under the Fly Your Satellite programme developed by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The miniature cube satellite, or cubesat, was designed, built and tested at UCD under the ESA's guidance.
After EIRSAT-1 was confirmed to have correctly injected into low Earth orbit, UCD President Professor Orla Feely said the project was a 'significant step' for Ireland in the field of space education.
🇮🇪🚀🌌#EIRSAT1 has made history as Ireland’s first satellite!
Relive the historic launch below 👇 pic.twitter.com/jlqXhJcXxt
— ESA (@esa) December 1, 2023
"What a satisfying moment this must be for the Irish team: a remarkable first for the scientific community in Ireland," she said.
"By joining the scientific expertise here at University College Dublin together with the ESA's expertise in the building and testing of satellites and space systems, Ireland's first satellite EIRSAT-1 has now successfully launched into space and reached its orbit around the earth.
"From their initial proposals to the ESA six years ago, to the cleanroom and Mission Control located on the UCD campus where students will operate EIRSAT-1 while in orbit, and of course the engineering and building of the satellite itself, the UCD team has taken a significant step for space education, research and capacity building in Ireland."
Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the ESA, said the collaboration between the agency and the university would make 'space ambitions become a reality'.
"I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate the EIRSAT-1 team for this successful launch and the start of Ireland's first exciting adventure in orbit," he said.
“I'd also like to thank UCD for joining forces with ESA towards a common educational objective: boosting the skills of the young generation.
"It's only by building capacity that we can make our space ambitions become a reality, for Ireland and for Europe."
Now that it is in low Earth orbit, EIRSAT-1 will carry out three experiments and report data back to its command centre at UCD.
Its primary task is to study gamma-ray bursts, the most luminous events in the universe, and will do so with a miniature detector built into its frame.
Its other payload includes equipment to perform a thermal coating study to assess the performance of surface treatments for satellites developed in Ireland.