Prime Minister Boris Johnson opens Airbus' new £35 million facility
- Credit: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Stevenage today to officially open Airbus' new £35million UK space and defence headquarters.
The PM took a tour of the facilities including the Mars yard, where he tried his hand at the Rover's controls - before opening the new environmentally friendly HQ, Orbit House.
The new building will house 500 space engineers and experts as part of the company's continued investment into British space capability.
The Prime Minister said: "I've been blown away by what I've seen here at Airbus in Stevenage. I think a lot of people realise that Airbus in Wales produces half the wings of all the passenger jets in the world, quite an amazing thing about the UK economy.
"I don't think people realise that we produce, on this site, a quarter of all the telecoms satellites and there's a massive future for the UK in satellites and satellite technology.
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"I've just seen a satellite that will be helping to measure the biomass of the world's rainforests which is absolutely crucial for our ability to understand the consequences of global warming and what we need to do to tackle it. So, we're boosting our satellite technology. Great to see Airbus launching a new facility here today.
"I felt like I was on the surface of Mars playing with this incredible Rover they made here in Stevenage! Stevenage is the Cape Canaveral of the UK's space industry.
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"It's one of the unsung success stories of UK science and technology and it's massively important."
Chairman of Airbus Defence and Space UK, Julian Whitehead said: "Stevenage is the jewel in our space crown and our headquarters for satellite design, manufacturing and operations.
"Our UK engineers are sending rovers to Mars, probes to the Sun, building satellites to fight climate change and underpinning secure military communications. It was a pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister today and talk him through our plans for the future."
Airbus Defence and Space UK makes up 70 per cent of the UK's space industry. Its space programmes in recent years include the Solar Orbiter, which is currently on a mission to the Sun, as well as the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover which is due to launch in 2022.
The Prime Minister also discussed the current situation with the test and trace app, the upcoming travel review and unsafe cladding.
On the app and so-called "pingdemic", he said he was "sorry for the inconvenience people have had".
"I know how frustrating it has been for businesses," he continued. "I was going over the numbers again this morning with my teams looking at the extent of the pinging - it is coming down as the pandemic starts to abate a bit.
"Don't forget, August 16 is nailed on - we will move to the testing system rather than the isolation system, which should give some relief, but the key thing to stress is that although we're seeing success in fighting the pandemic, it remains a dangerous disease and it's important to keep those numbers coming down."
When asked about the cladding situation for Stevenage leaseholders - who MP Stephen McPartland has been campaigning to protect against fire safety costs in Parliament - Mr Johnson added: "The cladding business has been really painful and difficult for people up and down the country.
"We had to respond to the Grenfell conflagration and the suffering and loss of life we saw there. Definitely the ACM cladding played a part in that inferno, there's no question about it. It's been the right thing to do to get that type of cladding off the over 18 metre buildings which is what we've done, and it's cost a lot but we've done it.
"You have to consider when it comes to buildings under 18 metres, what the balance of risks is. I think a lot of experts believe that overall - although we must make sure buildings are safe, we will remove dangerous cladding where we can - it's worth stressing to leaseholders, to the mortgage market, to surveyors, that the buildings are not fundamentally unsafe - not overall. And we will need to bare that in mind.
"Of course the government will support remediation where that is necessary but it's also necessary to strike a balance to protect leaseholders as well."