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Space race through a telescope

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Founded in 1965, THALES SESO focused from the outset on both research and production. Through its links to the space industry, which has experienced prolific growth since the advent of space travel, THALES SESO has grown continuously.

Today, the company’s activities center on four areas of application: space, astronomy, high-power laser optics, and science and x-ray mirrors. Its product portfolio encompasses precision optics, large optics, x-ray optics, as well as complete systems.

“Our products are built into many different instruments which are used in research and analysis,” explains Product and Technology Manager Christian du Jeu. “Our components have been installed in over 1,200 instruments. We specialize in a niche technology, and our products are always tailor made for a specific application or project.”

In the laser optics sector, SESO manufactures huge lenses which are used for analysis and also in the nuclear power industry. “Our products operate with a precision which is comparable with a single hair on a football field,” Mr. du Jeu emphasises. “We are competent in optical, mechanical and surface design.”

THALES SESO delivers its products to 26 countries around the world, primarily to research institutes and scientific organizations. Previously an independent company, SESO was acquired in 2011 by the French Thales Group, which operates mainly in the space sector.

“It is quite an advantage to belong to an international group,” stresses Mr. du Jeu who, following a management buy-out in 1994, was one of the company owners until 2011. “Investment has increased significantly, and our customers feel more secure with a strong holding company in the background. We have also dramatically increased our presence in the space sector, where Thales was always very active. There are already many diverse satellites, but new ones are continually being launched. Currently, weather observation satellites are in focus in many countries.”

However, it is not only THALES SESO’s support in the space industry which has created success for THALES SESO. “The fact that we operate in four different segments is another advantage,” Mr. du Jeu points out. “The business is quite cyclical, with many fluctuations. For example, a telescope such as the EELT is only built once every 15 years. When one sector is in decline, we can balance this out with opportunities in other areas. Laser technology is currently in high demand around the world.”

High-end optics is a niche market, in which there are around ten players. THALES SESO’s competitive advantage is its long experience and extensive know-how. “We offer excellent solutions, which are also very light; this is important, since weight is a significant cost factor when transporting objects into space,” Mr. du Jeu underlines. “The environment in which we work is more complex than ever and performance demands are increasing. We are continually optimizing our processes to meet these requirements and create new and innovative technology to provide the necessary solutions. Cost reduction is, of course, another challenge. Research, and the implementation of new developments are our future.”

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