Astronaut Tim Peake opens new Thales £6m space thruster project in Belfast
Astronaut Tim Peake has officially opened the new Thales space propulsion facilities in Belfast following a £6million investment.
First Minister Arlene Foster and Economy Minister Simon Hamilton today welcomed Principia Mission Astronaut Tim Peake CMG from the European Space Agency (ESA) to Northern Ireland.
Major Peake is in Northern Ireland as part of a UK wide programme organised by the UK Space Agency and ESA.
After landing back on Earth, following six months in space, Mr Peake said he felt like he was having the "world's worst hangover" as his body adjusted to life back home.
He landed back on the planet in June, following his time on the International Space Station.
Thales Alenia Space UK’s dedicated Electric Propulsion Integration Centre is the first of its kind in the UK.
As she introduced Mr Peake, the First Minister said: "I may be First Minister, but Mr Peake has himself been responsible for a number of firsts, such as the first UK space walk and the first virtually-run marathon. And most impressive for me, he was the first to say God Save the Queen in space.”
Mr Peake said it was “an absolute pleasure and honour” to visit Thales to open the centre.
He explained that working in the European Space Agency allowed him to explore the best of science and technology.
“I can go from melting metal alloys in the European lab to the US laboratory, and working with proteins for the pharmaceutical industry.
“It gives me as much if not more pleasure to come back and visit industry that is driving investment in cutting-edge technology.”
Welcoming the investment Mrs Foster said: "The establishment of this industrial aerospace production facility for space manufacturing is an important investment in the development of Northern Ireland’s space cluster and demonstrates the Group’s confidence in the world-class engineering capabilities of its workforce in Northern Ireland.
“The Space Sector is an important emerging market with exciting commercial opportunities. We must ensure local businesses maximise their capabilities and expertise to position Northern Ireland as a globally recognised region for space sector innovation and expertise.
“Tim Peake’s historic six-month stay on the International Space Station did so much to educate and inspire all of us. Like Tim, we also have a mission. We must open engagement between industry, academia and government to develop Northern Ireland as a globally recognised region for space sector innovation.”
Invest Northern Ireland has offered Thales a £500,000 R&D grant to research technologies to establish more efficient ways of producing parts for the Spacebus Neo satellite, the first of its kind fitted with full electric propulsion.
Invest NI’s R&D offer is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.