‘Sunscreen for satellites’: New ENBIO facility in Ireland

Solar Orbiter exploring the Sun’s realm
15 April 2015

A new space technology facility, funded by the European Space Agency for the development of space-related ‘sunscreen technology’, opened in Ireland on 14 April 2015.

The new facility in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, is ENBIO’s centre of excellence for the development and production of thermal management treatments for satellites, spacecraft and other space-related hardware. 

In 2012, ESA awarded a contract to ENBIO to produce coatings that will protect some of the Sun-facing surfaces of ESA’s Solar Orbiter satellite, planned for launch in 2018, allowing scientists to study the Sun at close range, closer than any previous mission.

Solar Orbiter will investigate the connections and the coupling between the Sun and the heliosphere, a huge bubble in space created by the solar wind that extends far beyond our Solar System. It is through this wind that solar activity can cause auroras and disrupt satellite-based communications.

Solar Orbiter continues a long tradition of European Sun explorers, including Helios 1 and 2, Ulysses and SOHO, all in partnership with NASA, as well as ESA's Proba-2.

They have all prepared the ground for Solar Orbiter to advance our understanding of how the Solar System works, one of the major scientific questions of ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme.

To get a close-up view of the Sun and to observe the solar wind before it becomes disrupted, Solar Orbiter will fly to within 45 million km of the Sun, closer than Mercury. It will image the solar poles for the first time, helping us understand how the Sun generates its magnetic field.

ENBIO's new facility

Opening the ENBIO facility, Damien English TD, Irish Minister of State for Skills, Research & Innovation, said, “ENBIO has achieved remarkable success during its four-year development programme with the European Space Agency (ESA), which has brought over €1.5 million in ESA funding to Clonmel in addition to creating up to 12 new jobs in 2015 and into 2016. I congratulate the team at ENBIO and commend Enterprise Ireland for assisting the company to secure the €1.5 million contract from the European Space Agency.”

Minister English also said, “In 2015, Ireland celebrates 40 years as an active and proud Member State of ESA and ENBIO’s success in this field and its involvement in the exciting Solar Orbiter mission is a fitting reflection of the ultra high-technology capabilities developed by the Irish space sector.”

The contract was secured through Ireland’s membership of ESA, which is managed by Enterprise Ireland. Tony McDonald, Enterprise Ireland’s Space Technologies Programme Manager, said, “ENBIO is one of a growing number of highly innovative Irish technology companies securing ESA contracts with the active support of Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.” The number of Irish companies active in ESA programmes is nearing 50 and growing.

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