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Rosetta space probe which will land on comet at 24,600mph made in Aylesbury Vale

Ian Bamsey, propulsion engineer (left) and Chris Smith, MD of  European Astrotec, involved with the Rosetta space probe,pictured here with a Fuel Loading Panel

Ian Bamsey, propulsion engineer (left) and Chris Smith, MD of European Astrotec, involved with the Rosetta space probe,pictured here with a Fuel Loading Panel

A man who was involved in a pioneering space project has told of his ‘relief’ after the probe sent its first signal back to Earth after three years of hibernation.

Chris Smith was involved in the building, designing and testing of the Rosetta probe, which is currently undertaking one of the most ambitious missions attempted – to land on a comet at 24,600mph.

Chris, 48, from Granborough, was working at EADS, a satellite and space system manufacturer based in Stevenage when he first got involved in the project in 1998.

He said: “I was in charge of the propulsion subsystem design.

“This means that I was responsible for all the on-board rockets and for the manoeuvring system.

“I then worked on testing the on-board rocket system and its launch activities.

“That wasn’t the end of my involvement with the project though, as I later worked out of Westcott Venture Park on manufacturing the oxidiser part of the propellant.”

It was at Westcott that Chris met Ian Bamsey, who was responsible for the manufacture, analysis and shipping of the propellant that fuelled Rosetta on its journey. The space probe was initially sent into orbit in March 2004, before being sent into slumber in June 2011, in preparation for its journey to the comet.

Earlier this month after three years of inactivity, the probe was successfully reactivated ahead of its mission to land on 67/P Churuymov Gerasimenko. Once there it will carry out tests on its surface later this year.

Chris said he was relieved when he heard the probe had sent a signal back to Earth.

He said: “It was a very long process and I have kept an eye on its progress over the past few years. When you dedicate such a huge amount of your life to something like this, it is very satisfying and hopefully now I can start to see the fruits of my labour.”

Chris said he felt very lucky to be working in an industry that had always interested him.

He said: “I was born in 1965 so I grew up watching the Apollo missions and seeing man land on the moon for the first time.

“It was something that fascinated me and I feel very privileged to have worked in something I love.”

 

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