Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Space for Northern Ireland firms to grow in a world industry

An artist's impression of 'mega-Earth' Kepler-10c which dominates the foreground. Its sibling, the lava world Kepler-10b, is in the background. (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/PA)
An artist's impression of 'mega-Earth' Kepler-10c which dominates the foreground. Its sibling, the lava world Kepler-10b, is in the background. (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/PA)

Northern Ireland companies need to take advantage of opportunities being presented by the space industry, according to a trade body.

Leslie Orr from ADS, which represents firms working in the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, was speaking following the launch of the Northern Ireland Space Capability brochure at the Farnborough Airshow.

The document highlights 24 organisations in Northern Ireland which are currently working in and targeting a global market that's expected to grow to £40bn by 2030.

Mr Orr said that as well as building practical components, firms in Northern Ireland are also involved in collating and processing data from satellites.

Applications for satellites include monitoring and streamlining traffic and transport, agriculture, marine operations and environmental projects.

"The goal here is to grow the space industry, to highlight our capabilities in Northern Ireland and to attract business here," he said.

"Firms here can do everything from building rocket motors for satellites to developing software applications.

"We have recently set up the Northern Ireland space special interest group and we want to grow the space industry in the same way that we want to grow the aerospace industry."

Invest NI reported late last year that six companies in Northern Ireland contributed almost £28m worth of work to the global space industry in 2013.

Companies working directly in the space industry include Thales/Aerojet, AIX Ltd, Andor Technology, Icemos Technology, LamhRoe Ltd and Moyola Precision Engineering.

Thales in east Belfast has developed a partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne, which built the thrusters on the famous Voyager 1 spacecraft, originally launched in 1977 and now the first man-made structure to enter interstellar space.

The collaboration – European Space Propulsion – plans to be manufacturing thrusters and other products for the European space industry in Northern Ireland by the end of this year.

A further six companies say they are exploring opportunities, including Moyola Precision Engineering and Mivan Ltd.

Construction companies could also get in on the act, with plans for large space telescopes representing huge amounts of installation and infrastructure work.

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