Belfast Telegraph

Sky's the limit for Ireland's €80m national space centre project

It's a small step for man but an 80m galactic leap for Ireland's fledgling national space centre.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny opened Ireland's first Earth Observation Station at the National Space Centre (NSC) in Cork, as the agency hopes to clinch multi-million euro contracts with the European, Russian and US space agencies.

It will work to help identify and track space junk, which involves an investment of over €80m by foreign firms and agencies over 10 years.

Almost 700,000 pieces of space junk -- ranging from as small as a pen to as big as a lorry -- orbit the Earth and accurately monitoring it is crucial to rocket and satellite launches as even the slightest impact can have catastrophic consequences.

The money will be spent on infrastructure such as hi-tech satellite monitoring systems and computer-driven space observation lenses. The NSC is hoping to sign a contract with the Russian space agency soon.

The station was commissioned by Canadian firm ExactEarth and will also be used to track vessels on any of the world's oceans via satellite.

Mr Kenny said it was an exciting example of how technology can have major economic benefits.

"Critically, it provides an opportunity to capitalise on this advantage in the creation of hi-tech and sustainable jobs," Mr Kenny said.

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