French satellite operator commits to UK space sector with multi-million pound Airbus deal
European firms Eutelsat and Airbus have signed a multi-million pound deal to assemble parts for new communication satellites in the UK.
Under a contract signed today between the satellite operator and aerospace manufacturer, components and major parts for two satellites will be made in the UK before final assembly in Toulouse, France.
The deal, which the Government said is worth ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’, will benefit 500 skilled employees involved in Eutelsat projects in Britain.
Airbus’ sites in Portsmouth and Stevenage will manufacture the entire communications payload, platform structure, antennas, propulsion subsystem and various other mechanisms.
Eutelsat is replacing its three existing satellites with two new ones in 2021. This morning’s (November 19) announcement means that six out of seven of Eutelsat’s next satellites will be partially built in Britain, representing inward investment of up to €40m (c.£35.5m) a year.
Business Secretary Greg Clark, who confirmed the deal, said: “This investment is a significant vote of confidence for the UK’s world leading space industry.
“The UK is already a world-leader in developing satellite technology, with a 40% share of the global export market of small satellites and building major parts for one in four of the world’s commercial telecommunications satellites.”
He continued: “This new deal builds on the recent announcement, as part of our Industrial Strategy, that the UK is investing in, and building, its first proposed spaceport in Sutherland. The Spaceport will further develop our expertise and capabilities in the space sector enabling us to launch small satellites.
“Through our Modern Industrial Strategy, we are increasing the R&D budget to its highest level ever, building on our commitment to this sector and our world leading science base. This deal demonstrates that science, innovation and business has no borders.”
Eutelsat chief exec Rodolphe Belmer commented: “We are impressed with the ongoing expansion of the UK space sector, particularly its growing industrial capabilities and development of cutting-edge technology, and we will continue to rely on the UK’s ability to build and deliver world-leading spacecraft.
“I am grateful for the support of the UK government and UK Space Agency, both of whom recognise the strong commitment Eutelsat has made to the UK over many years.”
Colin Paynter, managing director for Airbus Defence and Space UK, said of the deal: “Airbus’ telecommunication satellite technology developed in the UK has been key to this significant contract win.
“UK Space Agency support for the ESA ARTES programme has enabled Airbus in the UK to develop world leading technology for the world’s leading satellite operators.”