Tech & Innovation

UCD spin-out secures €800,000 from European Space Agency

By Business & Finance
10 February 2015
Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way
Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way © ESA/ATG medialab

Parameter Space Ltd, a new UCD spin-out company, has secured a €800,000 contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to fund a three-year project.

The objective of the project is to develop new software capable of exploiting the unprecedented volume of data returning to Earth from ESA’s Gaia satellite which was launched in late 2013. The contract will also enable the company to create four new jobs.

The main goals of this €700m mission are to measure the precise positions and luminosity of ~1 billion stars and to discover thousands of planets around other stars and supernovae.

Since July 2014 Gaia has made nearly 100 billion measurements with its 1-billion pixel digital camera. Gaia’s database will eventually grow to 1 Petabyte in size which is equivalent to about 200,000 DVDs worth of data.

Analysis of this data will result in the creation of a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy.

Parameter Space will develop a portal to host analysis algorithms provided by the scientific community and develop specific tools for enhanced analysis and access to this data.

Parameter Space was established in 2014 by astrophysicists Professor Lorraine Hanlon and Dr Sheila McBreen as a spin-out from the UCD School of Physics. They established the company following completion of the five-week 2014 UCD Commercialisation Bootcamp held at NovaUCD.

They lead the UCD Space Science and Advanced Materials group and together have over 30 years of experience working on space missions, including ESA’s INTEGRAL mission and NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Professor Lorraine Hanlon said:“We are delighted to have secured this key contract from ESA and our aim is to develop software tools that will provide additional capability for scientists and citizens to make use of this unique data set.”

Dr Sheila McBreen added: “The data analytics skills we have developed over many years working on fundamental physics in the UCD Space Science group have enabled us to make a successful bid for this ESA contract.”

Dr William O’Mullane, head of Operations Development Division, ESA said: “Having personally worked on the Gaia Science Ground Segment for nearly two decades it is great to start thinking about delivering data to the world. The European Space Astronomy Centre already serves up the ESA space science mission data and will also serve up Gaia data. This contract is part of our continuing attempt to improve our delivery of science, it is a pleasure to find an innovative and capable team to collaborate on this in Dublin.”