For the materials engineers, technicians, production experts, and many other employees at RUAG Space, the special requirements and challenges of space are part of the daily routine – but it’s not every day that an actual astronaut comes to visit. And to date, Switzerland can lay claim to just one astronaut: Claude Nicollier. Today, the 73-year-old Swiss space pioneer and professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) visited RUAG Space in Zurich Seebach, where he met and spoke with employees. These are the very same people whose behind-the-scenes work has been equally valuable for the success of countless space missions.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Nicollier’s first mission on board the space shuttle Atlantis. It is a good opportunity both to look back as well as to take time to appreciate the value of space flight for our society. In his talk and during the following discussion with RUAG Space employees, Nicollier reflected on what space research has added to the store of human knowledge, the importance of international collaboration and the role that Switzerland has and will continue to play.
He said: “With RUAG and other suppliers located here, Switzerland has no reason to downplay its contribution to space travel. And this is not only true in Europe, but includes many activities in the U.S. as well. At the moment the industry, with its institutional players and many new commercial players, is highly dynamic – and Switzerland holds a leading position in both markets.”
Peter Guggenbach, CEO of RUAG Space, added: “Navigation, weather forecasts, live television broadcasts – if it weren’t for space flight, our day-to-day lives would be quite different. Our products are on board the vast majority of European satellites and launch vehicles. Their 100% reliable technology helps ensure the success of space missions, whether on behalf of ESA, NASA, or commercial partners.”
Amongst other things, RUAG Space in Switzerland produces payload fairings for the European Ariane 5 launch vehicle. These form the tip of the launcher and protect the satellites from the atmosphere. RUAG Space in Zurich also manufactures numerous other products for satellites, such as mechanisms for aligning solar panels or even structures that form the very framework of the satellite.