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Research & Innovation

Sunscreen for satellites: New ENBIO space tech facility opens in Ireland

John O’Donoghue CEO ENBIO explains to Damien English T.D. Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation and Yves Bonnefous, Solar Orbiter Project Manager at the European Space Agency how the ENBIO technology works Pic: Aileen Drohan

Space technology company Enbio is to create 12 new jobs at its newly opened €1.5m space technology centre in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, which has been funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The facility is Enbio’s centre of excellence for the development and production of thermal management treatments or ‘sunscreen technology’ for satellites, spacecraft, and space related hardware.

The Clonmel facility will produce proprietary surface treatments to protect vital parts of the ESA Solar Orbiter satellite due to launch in 2017.

ENBIO’s coatings will protect all of the sun facing surfaces of the ESA satellite, allowing scientists to get closer to the sun than any previous mission and making ENBIO’s coating the closest man-made object to the Sun.

Opening the facility, Damien English T.D. Minister of State for Skills, Research & Innovation, said that “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”.

Invented by company CEO John O’Donoghue, CoBlast produces a unique ‘SolarBlack’ surface, which it will then deploy on critical internal and external surfaces of the satellite.

CoBlast replaces the oxide layer of a metal - typically aluminium or titanium - with a thin surface which fuses to the metal in a single, environmentally friendly process step, requiring no chemicals or thermal input.

O’Donoghue said: “Thanks to the strength of the team at Enbio, we are ESA’s fastest adopted hardware ever, setting new records for getting a technology from concept to flight qualified.

“We are proud to bring a hi-tech investment into Ireland given that we are a small company, and we will continue to develop our surface enhancement technology to solve unmet needs for space and beyond.”

The contract was secured through Ireland’s membership of ESA which is managed by Enterprise Ireland.

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