LE BOURGET, France — It appears that Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), whose Falcon 9 rocket’s book-to-bill ratio is taking on astonishing proportions, will be launching all three of Germany’s next-generation radar reconnaissance satellites under an agreement that makes use of long-dormant options held by Astrium of Europe for the now-shelved Falcon 1 rocket, industry officials said.

Officials said Astrium’s Falcon 1 launch contract options, agreed to in 2010, were transferred to Falcon 9 and that these will be used to launch the three SARah radar reconnaissance satellites to be built by OHB AG and Astrium Satellites of Germany under contract to the German defense procurement agency.

The German parliament, or Bundestag, must still review the SARah contract before it is signed, but the OHB-led consortium looks all but certain to be awarded the business. OHB will build two passive-antenna SAR radar satellites, and Astrium Satellites of Germany will build a larger, phased-array-antenna satellite under contract to OHB.

The two OHB-built satellites would be launched together on a single Falcon 9, with the heavier Astrium-built spacecraft using a separate Falcon 9, officials said. They said a backup launcher would be selected in the event Falcon 9, whose current version is being phased out in favor of an upgraded version that will debut this year, is unavailable for whatever reason.

Germany’s first-generation SAR-Lupe radar satellite constellation of five spacecraft was launched aboard Russia’s Cosmos rocket.


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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.