Sunday, April 2, 2017

Space Industry Seminar Previews Space Studies Program in Cork

by Cian O'Regan

Space industry professionals and enthusiasts from around the world descended on Cork County Hall on Thursday to discuss the growth of the Irish space industry, as well as preview the Cork Institute of Technology, Blackrock Castle Observatory and Ireland playing host to the International Space University's Space Studies Program - taking place between June 26 - August 25 this year.

Guests were welcomed by the Mayor of County Cork, Cllr. Seamus McGrath, who kicked off proceedings by introducing the first speaker of the day, Orla Flynn.
Niall Smith, Head of Research at CIT outlines plans for the International Space
University's Space Studies Program coming to Cork this summer. credit: Phil O'Reilly

Flynn is the Deputy Director of the Cork Chamber of Commerce and Vice President for External Affairs at CIT. She expressed her delight at the fact that Cork and CIT was chosen to host SSP17, and was looking forward to seeing the growth of the space industry in Ireland, particularly in Cork.

Following Flynn was David Gibbons - Head of the European Space Agency Space Solutions Centre in Ireland - based at the Tyndall National Institute. Gibbons began by stating that the Irish space industry is currently worth €76m annually and expects that figure to double in the next five years. He was quick to point out that most people don't even know that there is a space industry in Ireland.

"The SpaceX Dragon - the first private vehicle to visit the International Space Station had 350 components that were built in Ireland, so we're already in space" Gibbons said.

"At the Space Solutions Centre we take technologies from space and spin them into existing companies." 

The aim of the Space Solutions Centre is to provide easy access to the technical expertise of ESA. It provides €50,000 to startup companies looking to apply space technologies on the ground.

Omar Hatamleh is the Chief Innovation Officer and Engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He is also the Director of the Space Studies Program.

Hatemleh explained the structure of SSP which is now in its thirtieth year. Taught through core lectures, team projects and workshops, the curriculum covers the principal space related fields, both non-technical and technical and ranges from policy and law, business, management and humanities to life sciences, engineering, physical sciences and space applications.

"This will be a unique opportunity to inspire young people to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics." 


Bringing the Space Studies Program to Cork will also bring with it substantial economic benefits. It is expected that over €3m will be generated in the local economy as a result of SSP.

Next to speak after Hatamleh was Niall Smith - Head of Research at Cork Institute of Technology and a driving force behind the team bringing SSP17 to Cork as the Lead of the CIT Local Organising Committee. He gave an overview of some of the key features of this year's program which includes:
  • 132 participants from all over the world will take part in this year's program. They will be assisted by 50 ISU staff members.
  • 100 visiting experts.
  • €1.7m will go into the local economy directly from ISU.
  • SSP17 will be the largest conference programme ever held in Cork.
Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the International Space University’s Chancellor and Apollo 11 moonwalker will kick off the 30th edition of ISU’s Space Studies Program SSP17 on Monday June 26.

Aldrin will in addition address SSP17 participants, faculty and the general public on the evening of 27th June 2017. Aldrin is one of only twelve humans to have walked on the moon, after he participated in the Gemini program. He is one of the leading advocates for a human Mars mission.

Official poster for SSP17
credit: International Space University

"There's no silver bullet in terms of SSP but the chance for opportunity is huge."


Over the course of the nine-week programme, Cork and CIT will play host to fifteen public events which will also be live-streamed, seven astronauts, a space jobs fair as well as a lecture by former Director of NASA's Ames Research Center and current President of Breakthrough Innovation, Pete Worden, to highlight just a few.

Also present on the day was James Fogarty - Divisional Manager of Cork City Council and a self-confessed space geek who praised the efforts of those already involved in not only the Irish space industry, but the space industry which exists in Cork -

"I think the credibility of the space industry in Cork is bigger than we realise."

For the latest news on the International Space University's Space Studies Program coming to Cork this summer - be sure to keep up to date with Irish Space Blog, Blackrock Castle Observatory on their websiteTwitter and on Facebook and the International Space University.

Be part of a fantastic summer of space in Cork by using the hashtag #OurSpaceOurTime and #SSP17 on social media.

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