herald

Monday 18 December 2017

UCD's lift-off as it joins the race to space

As the world celebrates the 45th anniversary of landing a man on the moon UCD is entering the space race.

Two top scientists at the Dublin university will now be helping get rockets safely into space.

Dr David McKeown and Dr William O'Connor have just won a €250,000 contract with the European Space Agency and will work on rockets being sent to the International Space Station.

"We are very happy, it's great to be working on rocket science in Ireland," said Dr McKeown.

DELICATE

The UCD lecturer explained what their work will achieve in layman's terms.

"We'll help smooth out the ride on the launch," he said.

"When a rocket is launched there's lots of energy and the space craft shakes a lot and there's lots of delicate equipment on board," added the scientist.

When the engines fire at lift-off there is a lot of vibration, explained the UCD lecturer, and the less shaking the better as a rocket's trajectory can be altered by it.

This is UCD's second contract with the European Space Agency and Dr McKeown said that the university is happy with their work.

"We're all very excited, it's great for UCD," the scientist said.

While they have not been involved in sending astronauts into space yet, he believes that their work can be applied to all rockets.

What will benefit from the complex research are satellites, supplies being sent to the international space station, as well as large astronomical telescopes.

"We're working at the cutting-
edge of technology for rocket science. This is as good as it gets," Dr McKeown said.

Their previous work with the European Space Agency involved X-ray telescopes for a mission to Mars.

Enterprise Ireland coordinates Irish companies with the European Space Agency and, according to the State body, space work has become big business for firms here.

commercial

"The space sector is of increasing importance for Irish industry, with a growing number of Irish companies playing active roles in a range of space activities.

"This project on the control of future launchers is an important new addition to this work, with potential for a commercial spin-out of the research," said Dr Bryan Rodgers, of Enterprise Ireland.

And the space race is not Dr McKeown's only interest.

He is a co-founder of Dublin Maker, a free festival where 3D-printing, beer brewing and robotics are displayed.

It takes place this Saturday in Trinity College Dublin.

jfegan@herald.ie

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