First Minister officially opens a new Space Propulsion firm in east Belfast

The First Minister Rt. Hon. Peter D. Robinson, MLA has officially opened European Space Propulsion Ltd’s (ESP) offices in Belfast, creating eight new senior positions and sustaining a further 40 positions at the Thales UK facility in Castlereagh.

The newly established company, which is owned by US firm Aerojet Rocketdyne, has entered a partnership with Thales UK and is aiming to provide a range of products and services to the European Space Industry.

Eight highly paid sales and engineering executive positions will be created at ESP over the next two years, contributing almost £1million in salaries to the Northern Ireland economy. Invest NI has offered ESP £48,000 of support towards its recruitment drive.

The First Minister said: “Following a series of meetings and visits with Invest Northern Ireland and Thales during 2012 and 2013, Aerojet Rocketdnye created a UK company, European Space Propulsion Ltd (ESP) and decided to base its European Sales and Engineering Headquarters in Belfast.

“The aerospace, space, defence and security sectors are high value industries in our economy and this strategic venture between Thales and US company, Aerojet Rocketdyne reflects a confidence in the manufacturing capabilities of Thales staff in Northern Ireland. The investment is good news for Northern Ireland and will create new jobs with average salaries that are more than double the private sector average.”

Speaking after a tour of the company’s new premises Arlene Foster said: “ESP is investing significantly in this project and estimates its new venture will generate annual turnover of approx £13million by 2016. My department and Invest NI look forward to establishing a strong working relationship with ESP and to exploring potential areas of development which will help build on Northern Ireland’s standing as a centre of space excellence.”

Under contract with ESP, Thales will use its core skills and competencies to manufacture space propulsion thrusters and associated services to the European space industry, safeguarding up to 40 jobs at the company in the short term with the prospect of more in the future.

Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne Vice President of Advanced Space Programs, said: “The discussions with Invest NI played a major part in influencing the decision of Aerojet Rocketdyne to locate the company here but ultimately we were impressed by the talents, expertise and adaptability of Thales and of the local Belfast workforce.

“Our partnership with Thales in Belfast is built on successful collaboration, innovation and technical excellence and this business venture has the potential to make the United Kingdom a new focal point for space propulsion in Europe. We look forward to competing for new business over the coming months and growing a successful operation in Northern Ireland.”

David Beatty, Managing Director of Thales Belfast, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting venture with European Space Propulsion Ltd and to contribute to the growth of space technologies in the UK. ESP’s investment will help to sustain employment for our dedicated workforce and leverage further employment opportunities in the aerospace, space, defence and security sector in Northern Ireland.”