Thales Alenia Space, PGZ team up on concurrent design facility project

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WARSAW, Poland – The Polish subsidiary of satellite builder Thales Alenia Space, Poland’s state-run defense group PGZ, and Warsaw University of Technology have signed a letter of intent on a project under which the partners could jointly build a concurrent design facility (CDF).

The new facility is to serve as a platform that will allow to develop Polish space projects, PGZ said in a statement. In the long-term, the CDF is designed to support Poland’s strategic program to build the country’s first earth observation satellite, according to the state-run group.

“The signing of this letter of intent represents the result of several months of intense tripartite talks and concept works. It marks an important step by the Polish industry towards the development of space and satellite technologies,” Maciej Lew-Mirski, the vice president of PGZ’s management board, said in a statement. “I’m very glad that our partner Thales Alenia Space is ready to cooperate with the Polish defense industry and Polish scientists.”

PGZ said that the facility will allow “a team of experts to jointly design satellite systems.” The announcement comes as a number of Eastern European countries are boosting their space efforts. According to the Polish company, “in the long-term, [the CDF] could be used in projects carried out for the European Space Agency (ESA) or in national programs, such as the planned Satellite Optoelectronic Earth Observation System Strategic Program.”

In 2014, a consortium led by the Military University of Technology, comprising both state-owned and private Polish defense companies as well as local research entities, obtained a contract from the National Centre for Research and Development to develop the program’s feasibility study. The document is to serve as the basis for the construction of Poland’s first earth observation satellite.

Asked about the reasons for establishing cooperation with PGZ, a spokesperson for Thales Alenia Space told SpaceNews that she “can’t communicate on this subject as we are in … competitive tendering.”

This suggests that Thales Alenia Space Polska Ltd, PGZ, and the Warsaw-based university could be considering whether to form a consortium to compete for the space government program in the near future.

Domestic partners for foreign companies

PGZ and other state-owned military companies and entities, including the members of the feasibility study consortium, are overseen by the Polish Ministry of Defense. Senior ministry officials have emphasized that developing Poland’s defense manufacturing capacity is a key priority, and foreign companies stand the largest chance of securing government contracts if they team up with local industry players. The ministry aims to ensure that the predominantly state-run defense sector gains access to new technologies, and local jobs are maintained.

Thales says it has been present in the Polish market since 1992, and its local division employs about 280. In June 2015, the group opened a new office in Warsaw, dedicated to developing projects within the space sector.

Headquartered in Radom, in the country’s central part, PGZ consists of more than 60 companies with an aggregate workforce of about 17,500 employees. The group says its revenues are about 5 billion zloty ($1.35 billion U.S.) per year.