Space, the final frontier: Royal & SunAlliance engineers don't just test, measure, monitor and insure. They reckon they are among the engineering elite and work on mainstream (and not so mainstream) projects, too.

The latest scheme is to build a pressure vessel to hold a super magnet, or cryomagnetic magnet, which will be launched into space in 2003 in a joint project between the US Department of Energy, NASA, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and 50 other institutions in 14 countries worldwide.

The Alfa Magnetic Spectrometer project aims to increase knowledge of the cosmos and the super magnet will be used to investigate the very fabric of the universe by detecting anti-matter and dark matter in space.

The magnet will be immersed in 2,500 litres of superfluid liquid helium cooled within two degrees of absolute zero (-273ºC), so that the magnet will be sufficiently cooled in space. Cooled to this temperature, the superconducting magnet will offer no resistance and there will be no power dissipation, therefore the magnet will have a stronger magnetic field to detect anti and dark matter).

The RSA team has been involved in similar high-energy physics applications in the past.