The work of an Irish technology company has been described as "mission critical" to next week's launch by the European Space Agency of its solar orbiter which is designed to examine the sun in the coming years.
The launch of the space craft is scheduled for Cape Canaveral in Florida on 7 February while it will take up to two years to get near enough to the sun to carry out its work, a heat shield developed by Enbio Space Technology will be vital.
The shield has been put together by the company, which has offices in Tipperary and Dublin, using grit as well as a form of charred animal bone to cover titanium foil. This is then used in turn to cover most of the solar orbiter and acts as a method of preventing the craft from getting too hot.
"The European Space Agency has spent years trying to find something to work, and didn’t succeed… We did know that we could put on synthetic bone, so the idea was could we find a black version of that synthetic bone. Black bone is very, very common, it’s a by-product of the meat industry.
"The bone is burned at high temperature and low oxygen and you get a charred bone," John O’Donoghue of Enbio Space Technology told RTÉ News.
Contact was made with the ESA and "we were in the right place at the right time and our technology hit all of the targets and specifications that they needed," he said.
Their contribution is "mission critical" to the solar orbiter project and now the company hopes that the technology will find other applications in the space industry, such as in satellites.
In the meantime, Mr O’Donoghue is heading off to the United States next week for the big event. "I’m very lucky to be getting the chance to visit mission control and witness the launch which is something I would have only dreamed about as a kid."