Aerospace giants invest in booming UK space industry

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A computer-generated image of the Eutelsat Eurobird communications satellite

European aerospace giants Airbus and Eutelsat will sink millions into building satellite parts in Britain in a major vote of confidence for the booming space industry.

The companies have struck a deal to manufacture and assemble components for two new satellites in the UK, securing investment of up to €40m (£36m) per year.

Airbus’s plants in Portsmouth and Stevenage will build the parts for Eutelsat before they are sent to Toulouse for final assembly. Eutelsat chief executive Rodolphe Belmer shrugged off concerns that a no-deal Brexit would paralyse the manufacturing sector, saying that “the British space industry will remain one 
of the front-runners in 
Europe”.

“What matters to us is the innovation capability, the technical capabilities of our partners and we think it is not really influenced by the political considerations,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

He also praised the Government’s “very firm commitment” to the space sector, ensuring that it will remain a “very important player” in Europe’s aerospace industry. The deal means that British factories will have their hand in making six out of the next seven satellites to be launched by the French satellite operator.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said that the tie-up “demonstrates that science and innovation has no borders” and was a “a significant vote of confidence” for the UK’s sector. Britain’s buzzing aerospace industry is the second-largest in the world after the US and has grown 39pc in five years, according to aerospace trade body ADS.

The UK has secured the investment despite Airbus stirring up controversy with its intervention in June when it warned that a “no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’s future in the UK”. “Far from Project Fear, this is a dawning reality for Airbus,” said Tom Williams, chief operating officer.

The company also warned that the transition period, which runs out in December 2020, is too short. Airbus employs 15,000 staff directly in Britain and supports a further 100,000 jobs.

ADS data indicate that the UK’s space sector has annual revenue of £14bn after enjoying explosive growth.

Revenue is forecast to hit £40bn by 2030, creating around 100,000 new jobs.

Some 40pc of the world’s small satellites are built in Britain.

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