Satellite win for city micro firm

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A TWO-man engineering firm from Sheffield is boldly going where others fear to go with a mission to create components for a new European spacae mission.

Attercliffe-based B-Tek Precision Engineering specialises in electronic discharge machining – using spark and wire erosion to make complex components with a high degree of accuracy.

The Princess Street firm has won a contract from Warrington-based ESR Technology to make components for the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2A observation satellites, which will be used for mapping land cover and usage, spotting potential risks and providing fast images for disaster relief.

ESR sealed the deal with B-Tek after it could not find any other manufacturer willing to take on the challenge of turning a solid piece of titanium alloy into a complex, 10 inch diameter component, which is just over eigth of an inch thich and has to be made to tolerances no thicker than a human hair.

The component is part of a bearing protection system that ESR is making, which goes within an optical communications terminal developed by Swiss company Ruag Space. The system will protect the delicate data transmission device from vibrations during launch and ensure the bearings run smoothly in space.

The terminal incorporates a laser and mirrors which will be used to transmit data from the satellite to the earth at rates equivalent to 20 million pages of A4 text or the content of 700 DVDs every hour.

The laser and mirrors can be positioned so precisely that they could shine a laser beam from London to New York and hit a target the size of an aircraft window.

Co-founder Tony Sitek said: “We are a very small sub contractor that is working with a very experienced, world renowned technology company, based in Warrington.

“This shows that small businesses can play an important role in the supply chain by being very innovative and being prepared to take the odd risk.

“This is seriously difficult engineering, but we wanted to do the job because we thought we could do it successfully.”

B-Tek Precision Engineering was launched in April when Tony Sitek and Steve Batt brought together electric discharge machining (EDM) specialists Pro-Spark and Ace Industrial to create what they believe is a company with the largest EDM capacity in the UK.

B-Tek offers sub-contract wire and spark erosion services to the aerospace, medical, oil and gas and motor sport industries.