Space-age Chinese challenge for Rugby company

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A Rugby company has built the tallest machine of its kind – to measure Chinese satellites.

The specialist equipment is as tall as a house at 7.3 metres and was approved by a visiting delegation from China last week.

And Dick Turpin, the founder and managing director of Butler’s Leap-based ITP group, is thrilled with the deal.

He said: “Building a machine for Chinese satellite maker might seem a bit unusual.

“But because the satellites are pretty large – 6m high – it needs a big machine to measure accurately all the faces.

“I am proud to say that it has been designed and built entirely in Rugby using Rugby expertise.”

And working with a different culture has proved enlightening for Mr Turpin. He said: “Doing business with China is different – it’s still common for people to smoke in meetings, for instance, and there is a reverence for age and experience and a focus on hospitality.

“I quickly learned that I was better relying on sketches and models than on interpreters.”

The Chinese space programme is expanding rapidly. From 2005 to 2013, the country launched 18 satellites. In the next 12 months, the target is 26. Each satellite will use an ITP machine to measure its precision components.

The device took five months to build and a team from Beijing Spacecraft travelled to Rugby last week to view and sign it off. The delegation was headed by Xu Shuxia, general accountant, who said: “We know the expertise for creating these machines is in England and that’s why we ordered from ITP.”

ITP will also undertake servicing and calibration work annually.