Stevenage air pollution satellite shows Airbus are determined to remain at heart of European space programme, whatever Brexit brings

Sentinel-5 pictured as it will look in orbit around Earth

Sentinel-5 pictured as it will look in orbit around Earth - Credit: Archant

“We just don’t know what impact Brexit will have on business, but we’re determined to remain an integral part of the European space programme.”

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That was the message from space chiefs at Airbus Defence & Space in Stevenage this morning as they prepared to wave goodbye to a vital climate change satellite.

The Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite has been primed for its mission in Stevenage and in September it is due to travel to Russia to be launched into orbit.

It will collect data about carbon monoxide and ozone levels in the atmosphere, which scientists will be able to use in their efforts to reverse air pollution and climate change. They will be able to see exactly where pollutant gasses are coming from on the earth’s surface.

Speaking at the send-off event at the firm’s Gunnels Wood Road site this morning, chiefs from Airbus and the European Space Agency – which is funding the project with help from the European Commission – were keen to show that the UK will still play a vital role in European space exploration whatever happens with Brexit, and that Airbus is Stevenage is determined to continue its own vital role.

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Speaking to the Comet, Airbus’ business development manager Ralph Cordey said: “A mission like this builds on the skills we’ve developed here at the Stevenage facility for years.

“There are other important missions we are developing here in Stevenage, like an orbiter that will go to the sun.

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“There’s a link between Stevenage and the rest of Europe – it’s showing we’re linked-in economically and linked-in socially and are contributing as part of a European team to a success venture, and we’re contributing to things here in Stevenage that can affect Europe and the rest of the world.”

He added: “We don’t know the answers about Brexit, but the worst-case scenario might mean the sort of career development we put in place with our staff, moving them from one country to another, and the ability to actually move spacecraft around Europe free of barriers and restrictions, might be limited.

Diagram showing the fuction of the satellite

Diagram showing the fuction of the satellite - Credit: Archant

“If this part of our business model were compromised it could be a problem for us to deal with, although we would find ways around it, I’m sure.”

Speaking of the importance of the Airbus to Stevenage, he said: “A mission like this touches the working lives of hundreds of people in the Stevenage area. There is a huge impact on the local economy of having people employed and through the services we have on site here because we have a large facility in the town.”

Of the Sentinel-5 satellite, he said: “This is a really interesting satellite because it’s the first in a new operational satellite that’s being built for Europe.

“It’s going to tell us about air quality, and about the gasses that are present in the air that we don’t necessarily want to be there.

The Sentinel-5 satellite

The Sentinel-5 satellite - Credit: Archant

“It’s going to look at the whole of the earth every day and its going to identify where these gases are coming from really quite precisely on the earth’s surface.

“It’s going to be the first of a series of observations that are going to last decades.”

Airbus Stevenage designed and tested the satellite. It is set to launch on September 21 from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.

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