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What We Do

European Space Agency

Overview of Ireland’s investment in the European Space Agency (ESA).


Ireland manages its investment in space primarily through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and Enterprise Ireland.

National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025

On the 19 June 2019, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published the National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025, which establishes a framework for supporting and growing Irish involvement in the rapidly growing global space sector.

Since Ireland joined the European Space Agency in 1975, Irish industry and research groups have been at the heart of Europe’s space missions, building a reputation as providers of innovative technologies for use in the European space programme.

From the development of technology for use on board the International Space Station and point of-care diagnostic technology used to assess the impact of space travel on the health of astronauts, to developing highly innovative uses of satellite systems, including connecting isolated forests to communications systems, Irish companies are at the leading edge of innovation and technological development in the space sector.

Ireland’s annual investment in ESA (€18.3m in 2018) is directly aligned with the strategy and objectives of Enterprise Ireland to develop the R&D capability of Irish industry, and with the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland strategy of supporting high potential start-up companies and attracting foreign direct investment. 

In recent years Ireland has seen strong growth in this sector, in both established space companies and in new entrants. 67 Irish companies are now working with ESA to develop technologies for the institutional and commercial space markets as well as using space products to develop downstream applications and technologies with non-space applications. It is projected that 80 Irish-based companies will be operating in the space sector by 2020.

Total employment in ESA participating companies has grown from 1,300 in 2008 to almost 2,000 in 2014 and is projected to exceed 4,500 by 2020.  Irish companies generated commercial sales of €43m in the space economy in 2013 and this is projected to grow to €133m by 2020. This high level of activity and growth in employment reflects the combined efforts of Government investment in R&D, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland working closely with industry, and ESA itself translating the innovation capacity of Irish industry into products, systems and services for the European space programme and the global space market.

Irish companies, scientists and researchers also engage in exciting opportunities with the European Space Agency through the involvement in high profile science missions such Rosetta. The European spacecraft, Rosetta, became the first ever to rendezvous with and place a lander on a comet, a landmark for space exploration in a decade-long mission that scientists hope will help unlock some of the secrets of the solar system. Several Irish companies were involved in building parts of the craft and Irish scientists were also involved in the research and control aspects of the mission.

Upcoming high-profile scientific space missions with Irish contributions include ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission and NASA’s James Webb Telescope, which are due to launch in 2020 and 2021.

Enterprise Ireland coordinates both Ireland’s industrial and research participation in the programmes of the European Space Agency.

Further information on the growing space related capabilities in Irish industry and research community can be found at www.space-ireland.com.