Beagle 2 bites £5m chunk out of EADS

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The Independent Online

The ill-fated Beagle 2 space mission to Mars cost EADS, the Franco-German aerospace and defence group, £5m, it emerged yesterday.

The ill-fated Beagle 2 space mission to Mars cost EADS, the Franco-German aerospace and defence group, £5m, it emerged yesterday.

EADS was the prime industrial contractor to the British-led consortium behind Beagle 2, which lost contact with its mothership after being launched towards the surface of Mars last December.

The probe, part of Europe's first mission to the red planet, is thought to have fallen down a crater on the mountainous surface of Mars, where scientists are hoping to find signs of life.

The company maintained that it was continuing to benefit from the expertise gained on Beagle 2 which it hoped to apply to other missions to Mars, such as the European Space Agency's planned Inspiration programme.

Francois Auque, the chief executive of EADS's space division, pledged that the business would bounce back into profit this year after heavy restructuring charges pushed it into a loss of €400m (£270m) last year.

Space accounts for around 10 per cent of EADS's turnover of €24bn and employs about 12,000 staff, 2,500 of them in the UK, which is the headquarters of the group's military communications business. The company recently won a 15-year £2.5bn deal to provide two satellites to the UK Ministry of Defence under the Skynet 5 programme.

M. Auque ruled out further consolidation in the industry following the merger of the space divisions of Alcatel and Alenia of Italy, saying that the European market would not put up with a single monopoly supplier of space platforms. He predicted only modest growth in the commercial satellite market, which was booming until the crash of the telecommunications sector four years ago, saying satellite launches would struggle to reach 20 a year - half their level at the peak of activity.

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