9 May 2011 :: Today at Elfordstown Earthstation, Midleton, Co Cork, Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock TD, announced a partnership between National Space Centre and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) which will see a huge 32metre satellite dish start a new life as a Deep Space Radio Telescope.

The dish was originally constructed in 1984 to take transatlantic telephone calls from Europe to the US, and was retired from use in the mid 1990’s when the underground transatlantic cables were laid.

The Deep Space Radio Telescope project will be co-ordinated and operated by CIT under Dr Niall Smith, Head of Research, in conjunction with CIT Department of Applied Physics and Instrumentation and Blackrock Castle Observatory in the first instance, and will spin into several other departments as plans advance.

The project will be carried out in two phases:

Phase I will see the Deep Space Radio Telescope operational by the end of this summer, with feeds available in September via internet to primary and post primary schools.

Phase II will be carried out over the following year, and will involve the refurbishment of the dish to turn and slew as it originally did and the installation of sensors and new receivers.

The Deep Space Radio Telescope will be capable of detecting a host of cosmic phenomena including:

  • the emission of giant slow moving hydrogen clouds
  • the violent explosions of stars
  • eruptions of the solar surface
  • storms on Jupiter
  • enormous galaxy-scale jets of quasars

The project will benefit education and skills training, and research and development and provide incomparable hands-on training and research opportunities for students from primary through to Phd Level.   It will be the only 32m radio telescope available to primary students for educational purposes in Europe.

Welcoming the  plans Minister  Sherlock  said “National Space Centre  is  already  active in  European Space  Agency  (ESA)  programmes including  the  Galileo  Satellite  Navigation  Programmes  and is actively pursuing  additional  research  and development opportunities both with the ESA and the EU Framework programme.  Ireland’s ESA membership has contributed to the development  of a highly knowledge-intensive industry sector with over 60 Irish technology companies having secured ESA contracts worth over €60m since 2000.  We expect this number to grow significantly in 2011” the Minister added.

Dr Niall Smith, Head of Research at CIT, who outlined Phase I and Phase II of the project said that “This project will see a €10m radio telescope brought back to life for less than €10,000 thanks to the partnership between National Space Centre and CIT. It’s a great example of using world-class infrastructure in the most cost-effective way to reach out into the community and to embed our growing scientific heritage alongside our world-renowned culture.

It will excite students in schools who will get to listen in on the radio signals from outer space; it will be a testbed for engineering and science projects from primary through to PhD; it will be available to researchers from across Ireland and beyond; it will be an iconic structure only minutes from the famous Jameson Distillery, which we hope in the future to open to tourists and public alike.”

Rory Fitzpatrick, CEO National Space Centre “We are delighted to get involved with CIT in this project and look forward to developing this prime scientific asset.  We look forward to working with the entire science and astronomy, research and education communities on further projects as we develop.”

Tony McDonald, Programme Manager, Space Technologies, Enterprise Ireland welcomed the project saying that “National Space Centre is an excellent example of the growing number of highly innovative indigenous start up companies developing satellite communications and space related activities in Ireland with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA)”