PARIS — OHB AG of Germany on July 2 said it has signed an 816 million-euro ($1.1 billion) contract with the German defense procurement agency, BAAINBw, for the three-satellite SARah radar reconnaissance system to be operational in late 2019.

A decade after crashing into Europe’s satellite prime contractor scene by winning the five-satellite SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance system award against competition from the larger Astrium Satellites, Bremen-based OHB has repeated its performance, but with a twist: This time, Astrium Satellites will be given a large consolation prize in the form of a subcontract for the full construction of one of the three satelllites. The Astrium satellite will carry a phased-array antenna and borrow from technologies currently in orbit on the two Astrium-built civil/commercial TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X spacecraft.

By building a new-generation active-antenna satellite for the German military, Astrium will amortize the cost of building a replacement for the TerraSAR-X spacecraft, Astrium officials have said, thus extending Germany’s presence in the civil/commercial radar Earth observation world, alongside Italy and Canada.

Astrium officials are looking to collaborate ith MDA Corp. of Canada to find synergies in the development of the next-generation TerraSAR-X and Canada’s three Radarsat Constellation Mission satellites.

In a July 2 statement, OHB said the SARah ground segment, whose development OHB will manage, will be ready for service in 2016 so that the current SAR-Lupe spacecraft are able to use it and smooth the transition to SARah. The SAR-Lupe satellites were declared operational in 2008. OHB’s current SAR-Lupe contract with the German military runs to November 2017.

“In order to maintain its reconnaissance capabilities in the future, the Federal Republic of Germany is now planning the SARah follow-up system, which will be even more effective,” OHB said in is statement. The SARah contract was signed with the German Federal Office of Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support of the Bundeswehr, or BAAINBw.

OHB officials were not immediately available for comment on the tradeoffs that were made between a five-satellite constellation and the next generation system’s three-satellite architecture, notably in revisit time or orbital altitude.

Industry officials said OHB and Astrium are planning to launch all three satellites on two or three Falcon 9 rockets operated by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif., but OHB officials have not confirmed this.


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