Thales opens first electric propulsion manufacturing facility in UK


France-based Thales Alenia Space has opened a new facility that will manufacture electric propulsion systems for satellites in Belfast, UK.

The new Space Propulsion Integration Centre will manufacture about four satellite electric propulsion systems a year, including those for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Neosat satellite programme.

Thales Alenia Space has already signed three contracts based on its Spacebus NEO satellite platform, including three XPS modules, which will be built in the new facility.

“We want to ensure local businesses maximise their world-class capabilities and expertise to position Northern Ireland as a globally recognised region for space sector innovation and expertise."

A group of ten Belfast-based engineers has also completed training in the new electric propulsion technology, which enables satellites to carry larger payloads for longer periods, at the company’s headquarters in France.

The facility has also received a training and industrial research grant from the government of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster said: “We want to ensure local businesses maximise their world-class capabilities and expertise to position Northern Ireland as a globally recognised region for space sector innovation and expertise.

“The new clean room facilities at Thales are an important investment in the development of Northern Ireland’s space cluster and demonstrate the group’s confidence in the world-class engineering capabilities of its workforce in Northern Ireland.”

The Belfast facility will also work with the UK Space Agency, as well as other Thales sites worldwide.  

Thales Alenia Space is also planning to expand its space engineering centres of excellence in Bristol and Harwell.