Satellite business is recession proof thanks to exports

PREPARATION The satellite being packed up ready for its journey
PREPARATION The satellite being packed up ready for its journey
HMS Victory and the Mary Rose Museum from the air     Picture: Shaun Roster

‘Nowhere in Europe offers everything Portsmouth does’

Have your say

ROLLING out of Portsmouth on a sunny morning, part of the latest satellite built by EADS Astrium has begun its journey to France.

The scientists and engineers at Astrium, in Anchorage Park, Hilsea, are responsible to developing and building the ‘brains’ for every satellite.

Called the payload, it is the part that records data, takes pictures, beams television, broadband or radio signals back to Earth.

The payload was crated up and sent on its way to Toulouse in France, where it will be assembled, tested, shipped to French Guyana, tested again, and then launched into space.

This one will be providing people in the Far East with a television service similar to Sky in the UK.

Richard Peckham, strategy and business development director for Astrium in the UK, said so far the firm had avoided any effect from the recession.

He said: ‘Typically we have three or four satellites being built in Portsmouth at any one time. Business has remained strong for us, and all the satellites are pretty much exported.’

The basic machinery for the satellites is made in Astrium’s UK headquarters in Stevenage.

That includes the fuel tanks, the thrusters to keep it on course, and the power systems. The solar-panelled ‘wings’ are made in Germany, and everything is put together in France.

‘It typically takes about three years from the contracts being signed to launch,’ said Mr Peckham.

‘It has to be in space for 15 to 20 years, and if it breaks you can’t exactly go and fix it, so everything is tested at every stage.

‘In Portsmouth we put the parts in a vacuum, assemble it in a clean room, and even put it on a vibration plate to simulate launch.

‘We are lucky that our customers are spread all over the world, in places that haven’t been so affected by the global recession.

‘We have seen our business shifting as contracts have come to an end, so there have been some redundancies, but in other parts of the company we have been hiring.

‘There still seems to be demand.’