Ariane, SAR-Lupe Work Propels Double-Digit Revenue Growth at OHB

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  Space News Business

Ariane, SAR-Lupe Work Propels Double-Digit Revenue Growth at OHB

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 12 February 2007
02:45 pm ET



PARIS
– Satellite and rocket-component builder OHB Technology AG is forecasting a double-digit revenue increase for 2007 as it continues to reap the benefits of its MT Aerospace subsidiary, which builds Ariane rocket segments, and its contract with the German Defense Ministry to build five SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites.

 

In presentations to investors Feb. 5, Bremen, Germany-based OHB outlined its growth strategy, which includes participating in European and international manned missions by contributing hardware.

 

Manfred Fuchs, the company’s founder and current president of its space division, said OHB has already begun studies for the German Defense Ministry on a second-generation series of SAR-Lupe satellites, called SARah.

 

SARah would feature higher resolution than the 50-centimeter maximum resolution of the first-generation radar satellites, and also would feature a faster system-response time between the moment a radar image is ordered and the time it is transmitted from the spacecraft back to Earth.

 

The first of five identical SAR-Lupe satellites was launched in December. The second is scheduled for launch aboard a Russian Cosmos rocket in July. The full five-satellite constellation is expected to be in orbit by late 2008.

 

OHB and its SAR-LOHBupe partners, including Alcatel Alenia Space, have long hoped to make SAR-Lupe the basis for a broader constellation in which individual satellites, using the SAR-Lupe design, would be purchased by other nations that would then share in the output of the entire constellation.

 

No buyers have turned up so far, but OHB Technology Chief Executive Marco Fuchs has said interest in SAR-Lupe will increase when the design has proven itself in orbit.

 

In a presentation to the investors’ conference Feb. 6, Manfred Fuchs said OHB has proposed the basic SAR-Lupe design for the Turkish and Kazakh governments, both of which are considering the purchase of national Earth observation systems.

 

OHB, which has specialized in small satellites for science and Earth observation, is under contract to the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of ESA’s Small Geo program to design a small telecommunications satellite to operate in geostationary orbit.

 

ESA’s goal is to assure a European presence in the market for small, commercial telecommunications spacecraft. The agency recently signed a contract with small-satellite specialist Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of
Guildford
,
England
, to help that company transform its expertise in low-Earth-orbit satellites into geostationary-satellite capability.

 

OHB and SSTL will be competing using funds from different ESA research budgets. The Small Geo program, budgeted at 100 million euros ($130 million), was created at German government insistence in 2006 to develop a satellite design and launch a first mission in 2010, with an outside contractor paying for the payload.

 

SSTL’s work is part of ESA’s Artes-4 telecommunications research program and will help SSTL modify the platform that was used to launch
Europe
‘s first navigation satellite into a medium-Earth orbit in December 2005.

 

SSTL’s contract with ESA is valued at 2.28 million euros. SSTL said in a Jan. 31 statement that its design goal is a geostationary satellite with 200 kilograms of payload and 2.5 kilowatts of power, with a 10-year in-orbit mission life.

 

The Small Geo program that OHB is leading for ESA is intended to produce a satellite with 300 kilograms of payload, 3 kilowatts of power and a 15-year mission life.

 

Small Geo and SAR-Lupe, as well as a forecast for an increase in production of Ariane 5 rocket components at OHB’s 70 percent-owned MT Aerospace subsidiary, help explain why OHB Technology is forecasting revenues of 200 million euros in 2007, with higher per-share earnings and pretax profit as well.

 

The forecast, if achieved, would represent an 11 percent increase over the company’s 2006 revenue of about 180 million euros, which was already a 54 percent increase over 2005. OHB purchased MT Aerospace in mid-2005.