Switzerland’s Ruag Space Opens Office in United States

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Ruag Space of Switzerland, which in recent years has purchased the biggest space-hardware manufacturers in Sweden and Austria, has hired two U.S. space industry veterans to open an office in the United States in the hunt for more business.

Zurich-based Ruag, which has said its space business should increase its revenue by an average 6 percent per year through 2015, says opportunities remain numerous in the U.S. space market despite the expected cutbacks in overall U.S. military space spending in the coming years.

Ruag reported revenue of about 275 million Swiss francs ($300 million) in 2011 and is expected to report 2012 revenue of about 290 million Swiss francs.

Ruag officials have long debated whether the U.S. market is best approached by starting a new sales and marketing operation from scratch or by purchasing an existing U.S. business.

Ruag makes satellite electronics components and launch vehicle payload separation systems — the latter used by U.S.-based United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the Atlas 5 rocket as well as for Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift vehicle.

While Ruag’s business for ULA is longstanding, the company concluded that being closer to its U.S. customers would favor business growth.

“Our strategy is to enlarge our footprint outside Europe. The business we already have outside Europe, including in the United States, helps our European business and is helped by it,” said Holger Wentscher, Ruag Space Switzerland’s senior vice president. “In a sense, this opens further a door that is already open.”

In a March 14 interview, Wentscher said Ruag has not ruled out the possibility of establishing a production facility in the United States, but for now the presence is limited to marketing Ruag products to U.S. government and commercial customers.

The company has hired Patrick McKenzie as executive director for business development at its new Denver Ruag office. McKenzie previously worked for Ball Aerospace and Lockheed Martin before that. Hired with him is Albert Lepore Jr., previously with ComTech AeroAstro and General Dynamics.

“Even in a tough budget environment we see opportunities as well as challenges,” McKenzie said in a March 14 interview. “New players come into the market and there are opportunities for launcher structures such as with the SLS program,” he said, referring to NASA’s Space Launch System.

Ruag has large existing contracts for Europe’s Galileo positioning, navigation and timing constellation and for U.S.-based Iridium’s 81-satellite Iridium Next constellation. The latter work is under contract to Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, the Iridium Next prime contractor.

Ruag is also one of the few outside companies to have found work on the Falcon 9 rocket built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX). SpaceX has positioned itself as a one-company industry, performing just about all the Falcon 9 work in-house.

Wentscher said Ruag expects to perform payload-separation and other work on Europe’s future Ariane 6 rocket, which European governments are expected to agree to develop starting in 2014, having received positive signals on the Ariane 6 investment by the Swiss and Swedish governments.