Astrium Space Transportation of Bremen, Germany, in a move that diversifies its business far beyond its rocket and space-hardware core, has won a five-year contract with freight-transport specialist Hellmann Worldwide Logistics to manage maritime containers using an Astrium-developed monitoring service called SecureSystem, Astrium announced.

Under the contract, Astrium will equip 20 Hellmann containers with SecureSystem monitors connected to a service that limits access to authorized personnel and guarantees that the shipments have not been tampered with in transit. The SecureSystem package includes 24/7 monitoring of the containers from a control center.

As part of the contract, Astrium will use Iridium mobile satellite communications services provided through Paradigm Secure Communications of Britain, to provide communications links as needed.

Frank Pohlemann, vice president of strategy at Astrium, said the company has been assembling the different elements of the SecureSystem service for a couple of years and the Hellmann contract is its first commercial sale.

In a Jan. 25 interview, Pohlemann said a much larger market opportunity for SecureSystem is likely to appear when new U.S. container-security regulations take effect in 2012. The exact nature of these regulations is not yet known, but U.S. officials have suggested that all containers on ships bound for the United States might be obliged to be scanned at their last port of call before entering U.S. waters.

SecureSystem is one possible alternative. By sending U.S. authorities proof that containers have not been interfered with, it would permit transport companies like Hellmann a way of avoiding a laborious container-by-container scanning process.

“Our first market is for high-value goods that need to be monitored,” Pohlemann said. “Our service prohibits unauthorized personnel from opening containers, and provides, by a forward messaging service, a record of the shipment’s transit from the time it leaves one port to the time it arrives. The second opportunity is more of a mass market to permit shipping companies to comply with the emerging U.S. regulations.”