Parameter Space Ltd secures €800,000 from European Space Agency

Parameter Space Ltd, a new University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out company, has secured a €800,000 contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to fund a 3-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 4 new jobs.

UCD News Item - ESA awards 800,000

Pictured (l-r) at the UCD School of Physics are Professor Lorraine Hanlon, Parameter Space, co-founder; Dr William O'Mullane, Head of Operations Development Division, ESA and Dr Sheila McBreen, Parameter Space co-founder. Image by Nick Bradshaw, Fotonic.

The main goals of this €700 million 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 5-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, UCD School of Physics and Parameter Space, co-founder 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, UCD School of Physics and Parameter Space co-founder 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.”

Dr Michael Perryman, one of the original proposers of the Gaia mission in 1993 and a UCD Adjunct Professor, is an advisor to Parameter Space. He led the development of its scientific, technical, and data processing aspects for 15 years and is an expert on the mission and the data analysis challenges it poses.

Dr Bryan Rodgers, Enterprise Ireland, which manage Ireland’s membership of ESA on behalf of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, said, “The establishment of Parameter Space Ltd clearly demonstrates how Ireland’s participation in ESA space science research programmes can lead to job creation, with opportunities for highly-qualified graduates. That Parameter Space’s first employee, Daniel Vagg, is a graduate of UCD’s new Masters in Space Science and Technology should also inspire young space scientists that they can have a rewarding career right here in Ireland.”