First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster MLA and Economy Minister Simon Hamilton today welcomed Principia Mission Astronaut Tim Peake CMG from the European Space Agency (ESA) to Northern Ireland.
Major Peake officially opened the new Thales space propulsion facilities in Belfast following a £6million investment by Thales, Thales Alenia Space and Invest Northern Ireland. Major Peake is in Northern Ireland as part of a UK wide programme organised by the UK Space Agency and ESA.
Speaking at the official opening where she also launched the Northern Ireland Space Sector Strategy, the First Minister said: “I welcome this £6million investment in this magnificent new facility. The establishment of this industrial aerospace production facility for space manufacturing is an important investment in the development of Northern Ireland’s space cluster and demonstrates the Group’s confidence in the world-class engineering capabilities of its workforce in Northern Ireland.
“The Space Sector is an important emerging market with exciting commercial opportunities. We must ensure local businesses maximise their capabilities and expertise to position Northern Ireland as a globally recognised region for space sector innovation and expertise.
“Tim Peake’s historic six-month stay on the International Space Station did so much to educate and inspire all of us. Like Tim, we also have a mission. We must open engagement between industry, academia and government to develop Northern Ireland as a globally recognised region for space sector innovation.”
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton added: “Space inspires young people, scientists and engineers. Whilst driving innovation, the advances in this sector are an enabler of communication, entertainment and academic research. Our ambition is to exploit future market opportunities and develop a world class space cluster, capable of contributing to future high profile initiatives.
“My Department through Invest NI is working to develop the skills and competencies of Northern Ireland business and position it to take advantage of future space sector opportunities. This new facility is only the beginning. The investment by Thales and Thales Alenia Space in Northern Ireland and the R&D offer from Invest NI will be an important catalyst to driving growth among the NI Space community.”
Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, commented: “Neosat aims to help European satellite builders to capture at least half of the world’s satcom market in the years to come. The opening of this dedicated facility in Belfast is an important milestone in the electric propulsion revolution.”
Philip McBride, General Manager, Thales Belfast, said: “As a centre of excellence for precision design and manufacturing we are able to utilise our skills developed in the defence sector in this new innovative space sector. We look forward to working in partnership with Thales Alenia Space and the UK and European Space Agency’s to grow the Space sector in Northern Ireland and create sustainable employment.”
Thales Alenia Space UK’s dedicated Electric Propulsion Integration Centre is the first of its kind in the UK.
Invest Northern Ireland has offered Thales a £500,000 R&D grant to research technologies to establish more efficient ways of producing parts for the Spacebus Neo satellite, the first of its kind fitted with full electric propulsion.
Invest NI’s R&D offer is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
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