It has been a banner year for OHB Technology, which began 2010 by stunning an industry team composed of Europe’s top two space prime contractors to win a 566 million euro ($718 million) contract to build 14 satellites for Europe’s Galileo navigation system.

OHB, founded in the 1980s by the Fuchs family, truly emerged as a force to be reckoned with nearly a decade ago after winning the contract to build Germany’s five-satellite SAR-Lupe radar imaging constellation. But even with that notch on its belt, few could have liked OHB’s chances on Galileo against the combined forces of Astrium Satellites and Thales Alenia Space. Not only did the Astrium-Thales Alenia team have the edge in size, capacity and experience, but it is already building four Galileo In-Orbit Validation craft, slated to be launched in the coming months.

But if OHB Chief Executive Marco Fuchs, son of the company’s founders, Manfred and Christa Fuchs, was daunted by the prospect of going up against the two big primes, it didn’t show two years ago when OHB announced it would enter the Galileo bidding. Teamed with OHB in the competition was Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., an Astrium subsidiary that built one of two prototype Galileo satellites, Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element GIOVE-A.

Winning Galileo might have been enough by itself to land Marco Fuchs — with an honorable mention to Manfred Fuchs, chief operating officer of the company’s space business — on this year’s 10 Who Made a Difference in Space list. But OHB had another coup up its sleeve that absolutely sealed the deal: winning half of the work on Europe’s Meteosat Third Generation weather satellite system as a key member of a team led by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space. The team beat out traditional European weather satellite incumbent Astrium Satellites, touching off a protest that delayed the start of the program and was resolved when Astrium was granted a larger share of the work than originally planned on the satellites’ sounding instruments.

OHB’s responsibilities on the 1.25 billion euro Meteosat Third Generation contract includes building the satellite platforms, solidifying the company’s position as a supplier of geostationary orbiting spacecraft and removing any doubt that Europe now has three major satellite prime contractors.

OHB recently reported soaring revenue and backlog during the first six months of the year, largely on the strength of the Galileo work. Revenue from the Meteosat Third Generation program is expected to begin flowing after the final contract is signed this fall.