JOBS have been secured in Portsmouth after space firm Astrium signed a contract to send a satellite close to the sun.
The deal is worth £245m for Astrium UK, which has a base in the city at Broad Oak and in Stevenage.
The Solar Orbiter (SolO) will be ready for launch in 2017 and will fly to only 26 million miles from the sun – one of the closest approaches by any craft –in order to measure its activity over seven years.
It is one of the largest contracts ever to have been placed in the UK by the Paris-based European Space Agency.
Astrium’s Jeremy Close said it was not yet known what proportion of the work will be done in Portsmouth, but staff there are experts in designing and installing satellite payloads – the part that collects and stores the important information.
He said: ‘Space has been growing for the last decade, and certainly in the last few years it’s not been affected by the global economic downturn. We’re lucky at Astrium in Portsmouth that we’re a world-leading player in space technology, especially satellite payloads, communications, radar technology – all areas that are currently doing pretty well.
‘This latest contract from the European Space Agency is very exciting because it will help us to discover how the sun works, especially to help us understand for the future solar forecasts, help us predict solar flares and coronal mass ejections – things people worry about affecting systems like banking, communications, telephones etc.
‘This is about securing jobs and to win a contract like this is great.’
The news has been welcomed by city politicians.
‘I’m over the moon,’ said Cllr Mike Hancock, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for economic growth and regeneration.
‘It not only puts Astrium on the international map, but Portsmouth as well.’
Cllr Hancock’s opposition counterpart, Cllr Donna Jones, added: ‘We’re delighted with the news. Astrium is a key business, particularly in the city.’