PARIS — Satellite fleet operator SES has sold a majority stake in its ND Satcom satellite ground system provider to Astrium Services in a transaction SES expects will further its entry into the market for hosted payloads for military and other government agencies, Luxembourg-based SES announced Oct. 22.

Astrium Services, which owns Britain’s military telecommunications satellites and several Earth observation satellite services companies, is buying 75.1 percent of Friedrichshafen, Germany-based ND Satcom for an undisclosed price. SES, which is retaining a 24.9 percent stake, said the transaction is expected to close in early 2011 following regulatory approval.

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ND Satcom reported non-SES-related revenue of 81 million euros ($116 million) in 2009, a year in which its performance dropped following delays and equipment-quality issues in its biggest contract, the German Defense Ministry’s two-satellite Satcom Bw program. Revenue, including business with SES affiliates, was “slightly higher,” SES spokesman Markus Payer said in an Oct. 22 interview.

ND Satcom provides ground gear for the German military satellite program through its 25 percent stake in MilSat Services, a company created with Astrium Services to serve the Satcom Bw program. Astrium owns 75 percent of MilSat services.

SES replaced ND Satcom’s management in 2008 and in 2009 told investors that it was looking for a buyer of all or part of ND Satcom, which SES said was no longer needed to provide entry into the European military satellite market.

In November 2009, SES signed its biggest-ever satellite manufacturing contract, a four-satellite deal with Astrium Satellites valued at some 523 million euros. Astrium Satellites is a sister company of Astrium Services. Both are owned by Europe’s EADS aerospace giant.

In its Oct. 22 announcement, SES said the ND Satcom transaction will permit SES and Astrium Services to look for ways “to work together in the development of new business opportunities in the government and institutions sector, as well as other specific satellite infrastructure projects.”

SES has been trying to develop in Europe a business in which its satellites host payloads owned by government agencies. The hosted-payload effort is more advanced in the United States because of the size of the U.S. military space budget, but SES has already won two European contracts to host navigation payloads for the European Commission.

Astrium Services, which recently purchased the X-band capacity aboard a commercial telecommunications satellite being built for Telesat of Canada, is a fast-growing company that is seeking to replicate the highly profitable services model it used in Britain. Astrium Services is one of several companies competing to win a European Space Agency contract to place payloads on one or two commercial satellites for a European data-relay satellite system.

Ferdinand Kayser, chief executive of SES Astra, the SES European division, said ND Satcom sale will help SES “enlarge the scope of our satellite infrastructure offering for governments and institutions, and to grow this promising new business segment.”

Astrium Services Chief Executive Eric Beranger said the acquisition will permit Astrium “to deploy a significantly wider product range by combining Astrium’s secure satcoms, networks and terminals expertise with ND Satcom’s for a stronger offering to civil, governmental and military markets.”

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.