Clonmel joins the space age

Clonmel joins the  space age
Clonmel entered the space age this week with the official opening of a new €1.5 million space technology centre in the town.

Clonmel entered the space age this week with the official opening of a new €1.5 million space technology centre in the town.

The new facility operated by Enbio at Gortnafleur has been funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is the company’s centre of excellence for the development and production of thermal management treatments, or “sunscreen technology” for satellites.

The coating produced by Enbio in Clonmel will become the closest man-made object to the sun when it protects all of the sun-facing surfaces of the ESA satellite that will orbit the sun when it’s launched from French Guiana in 2017.

The centre was officially opened on Tuesday morning by Damien English, the Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation.

The facility will create up to 12 new jobs over the next two years and the company says it will continue to look for new business to grow the centre beyond 2016.

With its headquarters in Dublin, Enbio is an innovation-based company founded almost a decade ago by current CEO John O’Donoghue. It is focused on providing innovations in material surface modification to a variety of sectors including aerospace, industrial, oil and gas, energy and the environment.

“About four years ago the European Space Agency saw our technology and was excited about its possibilites”, Enbio sales manager Kevin O’Flynn explained. “The ESA asked for help to help create new coating to cool the surface of its satellite that will orbit the sun in two years time”. The space agency had encountered difficulties with the coating it had previously used.

Since 2011 Enbio has worked closely with the ESA to develop Solar Black, a new coating material that’s used to protect the heat shield of the front of the satellite. The company has almost completed the development of a complementary white coating.

The new jobs in Clonmel will be mostly technical positions, with some available in production and inspection.

Enbio chose Clonmel as the location for the new centre because of its long-standing relationship with equipment providers Contax Production Automation, which is based in an adjacent unit at Gortnafleur. Contaxt supported Enbio in the construction of the centre.

“Being physically close to Contax means that we’ll get an excellent level of care for the equipment making the product”, Kevin O’Flynn stated.

Opening the facility, Minister of State Damien English said “Enbio has achieved remarkable success during its four-year development programme with the European Space Agency, which has brought over €1.5 million in ESA funding to Clonmel in addition to creating up to 12 new jobs in 2015 and into 2016. I congratulate the team at Enbio and commend Enterprise Ireland for assisting the company to secure the €1.5 million contract from the European Space Agency.

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”.

Enbio’s CEO John O’Donoghue said that “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. Not bad for a small company! 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”.