DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Satellite and rocket-component builder OHB AG on May 14 reported a 45 percent increase in revenue for the three months ending March 31 and a 58 percent increase in pretax profit.
Bremen, Germany-based OHB said the quarter was helped by continued revenue from Europe’s Galileo satellite positioning, navigation and timing system, for which OHB is building 22 satellites, and from early work on the second-generation German radar reconnaissance system.
Also contributing to the revenue was OHB’s work on Europe’s next generation of geostationary-orbiting meteorological satellites, Meteosat Third Generation, being built for European governments with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy.
In a conference call with investors, OHB Chief Executive Marco R. Fuchs said the debate in Europe about the exact design of a future Ariane 6 rocket — which was supposed to have ended with a November 2012 decision by European ministers — is very much alive and will not be settled until a Dec. 3 conference in Luxembourg of European space ministers.
The subject remains a touchy one between France and Germany. Industry officials said Germany is now proposing to build a liquid-fueled first stage for a future Ariane 6 rocket, which is not the design that European ministers agreed to in late 2012.
But the German concept might be an alternative given the difficulty of funding Ariane 6 among the governments whose industries are expected to build the rocket. Germany is expected to contribute a significant amount of funding to the project.
Fuchs said OHB remains confident that an upgrade to the existing Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, which was also approved at the 2012 ministerial conference, will be approved for completion by European ministers when they meet again in December. This vehicle is expected to begin flying in 2018.
OHB’s MT Aerospace division, based in Augsburg, Germany, builds Ariane 5 components and will have a still-undefined role in Ariane 6.
Beyond launchers, OHB said its CGS subsidiary in Italy booked a contract, valued at 44 million euros ($60.3 million), to provide satellite-launcher interface hardware and launch services for the Italian Defense Ministry’s Opsat high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite. Slated to launch in 2016 aboard a European Vega rocket, Opsat is being developed as part of a defense hardware offset contract between Italy and Israel, with Israel Aerospace Industries providing the satellite system.
Italy is also beginning work on its own, domestically built optical reconnaissance satellite, but this program has not yet moved to full hardware construction.
OHB’s Luxembourg subsidiary, LuxSpace, booked a study contract with the Luxembourg government and the 20-nation European Space Agency to design a small-satellite platform that could be used for telecommunications missions in geostationary orbit and both telecommunications and other missions in medium Earth orbit. The program, called microGEO, is designed to lead to a satellite with electric propulsion that would weigh no more than 200 kilograms at launch, including an 80-kilogram payload.
OHB’s most pressing project now remains Galileo. The company’s satellite deliveries are behind schedule. But with the first two OHB-built Galileo satellites arriving at Europe’s French Guiana launch base on May 7, the program is meeting the revised milestones set in September 2013.
“We are very proud” of this performance, Fuchs said, adding that the third satellite is already at a test center in Noordwijk, Netherlands, with the fourth about to be shipped there.
The first two satellites are scheduled to launch together on a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket in August. Fuchs said the next two satellites will be ready for launch by the end of this year. Soyuz availability is likely to push a third planned Galileo launch into 2015.
OHB’s contract obligation is the production of the satellites and their delivery, after testing at an ESA facility used by OHB, to the launch base. It remains unclear whether the company will be asked to pay a penalty — allowed under the contract — for being behind schedule.
For the three months ending March 31, OHB reported a 45 percent increase in revenue, to 207.9 million euros. Profit before interest and taxes was 10.4 million euros, up 58 percent from a year go. Backlog was stable at 2.2 billion euros.
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