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Surrey Satellite to be bought by EADS Astrium

UK space spinoff joins Eurofighter/Airbus combine

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Britain's flagship space company, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), has announced that it will be acquired by a foreign buyer.

The University of Surrey spinout sat maker announced today that it will henceforth be part of EADS Astrium, the space arm of European arms'n'aerospace titan European Aeronautics Defence and Space.

"On completion, this will represent one of the largest cash spin-outs from any UK university," Surrey Uni vice chancellor Prof Christopher Snowden said.

"It will also allow the company to realise its full potential as a rapidly growing and leading supplier of small and micro satellites, whilst the university retains the benefit of close interaction with SSTL and its new partner EADS Astrium. By retaining a small stake in SSTL the university shows its commitment to both the future of the company and space research itself."

SSTL is collaborating with NASA regarding a planned economy class Moon mission. The company is perhaps best known, however, for building the initial Galileo timing and navigation testbed satellite Giove-A. It is also preparing another, Giove-A2, for use in the event that the planned Giove-B does not come online in time. The European Galileo programme needs to keep a platform operational in space, or it could risk losing its assigned frequency slots.

Giove-B was made by EADS Astrium, as it happens, and suffered various technical delays which led to Giove-A2 being ordered from SSTL as an insurance policy. Giove-B is now in Kazakhstan, being readied for launch aboard a Soyuz lifter later this month.

Under the SSTL acquisition deal, the University of Surrey will sell almost all its 80 per cent stake to EADS for an undisclosed sum. The EADS Astrium space arm has worked on the "Jules Verne" space station delivery craft, the Ariane V heavy lift rocket, and the new Skynet 5 comms sats for the UK armed forces.

Parent company EADS is one of two remaining continental defence/aerospace heavyweights (the other being France's Thales). EADS is the majority of the new Eurofighter/Typhoon combat jet, and makes all kinds of missiles and other military hardware across the continent. It also includes Airbus, one of the world's two main airliner makers.

Meanwhile, Surrey University intends to fold in the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) Conservatoire, in a deal which will see budding performers "share the resources of the University" to produce "many more successful students", according to the Surrey Advertiser.

The deal still awaits regulatory approval. ®

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