Dundee’s space sector is to receive a welcome boost with a multi-million pound investment landing in the city.
Smiths Interconnect designs, manufactures and tests systems for space satellites, with parts from the city of discovery also being used on missions to the moon, Mars and Jupiter.
It’s one of 12 projects to be backed by the UK Space Agency through their ‘Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund’, receiving a total investment of £3.8m.
Some £1.9m will come from the UK Space Agency with Smiths Interconnect matching the investment.
Grant Robertson from Smiths Interconnect said: “The work that we’re doing here today, the investments we’re making today, will only come to fruition in ten years’ time.
“Technology is a crucial part of that, and it starts with the investment, and without the funding from the company and the UK Space Agency, it would be very difficult to do this, so thanks have to go to them.”
Funding will be used by Smiths Interconnect to enhance its Space Qualification Laboratory, a cutting-edge facility in Dundee that simulates the extreme conditions of space – one of the harshest environments known to humankind – to assure the quality and durability of space components.
From simulating the extreme vibration and shock environment of launch, to surviving the extreme temperature swings experienced during space flight, the lab has a full range of capabilities in which it will be investing substantially through the SCIF grant.
A key goal for Smiths Interconnect is to reduce both the time-to-market and cost of manufacturing of its radio frequency (RF) and optical components.
This will be enabled by developing new, in-house digital manufacturing capabilities and scaling up production through the automation of manufacturing processes, assembly and testing of products.
RF and optical components are essential for space exploration, providing critical communication and data transfer capabilities in deep space.
Tom Doak, Plant manager in Dundee, told STV News: “Reliability is the key element of our manufacturing process, everything we do has to get to our customer and survive for the expected lifetime.
“The cost of supplying something to our customer that fails in some way is enormous and, if it actually fails in service, it can’t be repaired when it’s in orbit, so all failures have got to be filmed and screened out on site.”
Julian Fagge, president of Smiths Interconnect, said: “Ongoing investment in the UK space sector in recent years is helping the country to become a global leader in space.
“Our work in Dundee aims to create unrivalled design, prototyping and manufacturing capacity coupled with an open-innovation space qualification testing lab, serving a key market need and strengthening our national space capabilities further.
“We are grateful to the UK Space Agency for supporting us in our mission.”
Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “It’s exciting to see the emergence and growth of vibrant space clusters across Scotland and the whole of the UK.
“Smiths Interconnect’s Space Qualification Laboratory in Dundee is a significant facility, capable of simulating the extreme conditions of space, cutting costs for manufacturers, and speeding up the time it takes to get new products and components to market, and into space.
“It is a brilliant demonstration of the potential of our thriving space sector to develop innovative infrastructure that helps us to deliver increasingly ambitious missions and capabilities.
“The Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund highlights the government’s commitment to space and will help deliver the goal set out in the National Space Strategy to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, developing new skills and creating jobs.”
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