Ireland's first ever satellite has successfully completed the first phase of the European Space Agency (ESA) programme.
EIRSAT-1 has been given the green light from a critical design review, and moves one step closer to launch into space.
Research and Development Minister John Halligan made the announcement during a visit to University College Dublin (UCD).
He met with the team of 16 UCD postgraduate students, who are building the satellite with the support of ESA's Education Office.
EIRSAT-1 (Educational Irish Research Satellite-1) is a miniature satellite and is comparable in size to an average shoebox.
A computer render of the EIRSAT-1 spacecraft | Image: UCD
In May 2017 EIRSAT-1 was chosen to be part of the second cycle of the Fly your Satellite! (FYS) programme.
The UCD team now moves to the next phase of the programme, and will begin to assemble and test a satellite prototype in newly-installed clean rooms at the university.
Subject to passing further reviews and mission milestones, EIRSAT-1 is expected to be delivered to ESA in mid-2020 with three scientific experiments on board.
After launch, it is anticipated to operate for a six to 12 month period.
Once in orbit, the satellite will communicate data to Earth through a ground radio station - located at EIRSAT-1 mission control in the UCD School of Physics.
A computer render of the EIRSAT-1 spacecraft with two of the solar arrays removed to see internal subsystems | Image: UCD
Minister Halligan said: "The EIRSAT-1 project provides the UCD student team with a great opportunity to develop skills in satellite development, a first in Irish space science education.
"The development of these skills will have an impact beyond those directly participating in the project, including in the expanding space industry sector in Ireland."
Professor Lorraine Hanlon, UCD School of Physics and EIRSAT-1 project leader, said: "Cubesats such as EIRSAT-1 are disrupting the traditional space sector globally, providing a fast and cost effective route to gaining spaceflight heritage.
"As an emerging space nation, Ireland's future space endeavours will benefit from the skills developed by the talented team of UCD students who are building EIRSAT-1."
Minister John Halligan with UCD students | Image: UCD
Professor Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, added: "I would like to congratulate the EIRSAT-1 team of UCD students on successfully completing the first phase of ESA's Fly Your Satellite! programme and wish them every success with the next phase of assembling and testing the satellite."
"The Government's recent announcement of Ireland's membership of the European Southern Observatory provides significant benefits for advancing the skills agenda and research excellence in the space sector in Ireland.
"A key objective of the EIRSAT-1 mission is through its success to inspire the next generation of students to study STEM subjects."