Italian small-satellite builder Carlo Gavazzi Space SpA expects to leverage the success of its Agile science satellite into a regular business
to build, on average, one scientific or Earth observation satellite every two years, company Managing Director LanfrancoZucconi said. The main customers the company plans to serve are the Italian and European space agencies, he said.
Milan-based Carlo Gavazzi is forecasting that the renewed interest in relatively inexpensive small satellites at the Italian Space Agency (ASI) will help increase the company’s revenue
more than 50 percent by 2010.
In a June 5 interview, Zucconi said the company’s 2006 revenue totaled nearly 40 million euros ($53.8
million). In three years that should increase to between 60 million and 70 million euros per year assuming that ASI makes good on its current intentions. ASI’s new president, Giovanni Bignami, has said the agency has government backing and the financial resources to build the equivalent of one small scientific, technology-demonstration or Earth observation satellite every two years.
“The budget indications we have show that this is certainly feasible,” Zucconi said. “Assuming a budget for small-satellite missions of about 50 million euros per year, this would be less than 10 percent of the ASI budget. What we are preparing for is a new dynamism at ASI after several years during which it was basically static.”
budget for 2007 is 650 million euros.
Carlo Gavazzi has been working on small satellites for more than a decade. Owned by the Fuchs Group of Bremen, Germany – majority shareholder of Bremen-based OHB Technology – Carlo Gavazzi built components for the OHB-led Safir technology-demonstration satellites in the mid-1990s. The company’s MITA small-satellite platform was first flown in 2000 on a demonstration mission with a small scientific payload. MITA is an Italian acronym for Italian minisatellite for advanced technology.
Carlo Gavazzi also is
providing components for the German Defense Ministry’s SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites. The first of five SAR-Lupe spacecraft is in orbit and working to specifications, according to German military officials.
But it was the 352-kilogram Agile satellite, launched April 23 aboard the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-8 rocket, that has been Carlo Gavazzi’s breakthrough program.
Built and launched for less than 60 million euros, Agile was placed into a 550-kilometer orbit and is expected to study X-ray and gamma-ray sources for about two years. ASI has declared it operational and has said its instruments are working as designed.
said the next use of the MITA platform likely will be the Hypseohyperspectral Earth observation satellite, which also is being built for ASI. He said the MITA platform would be nearly identical to the one used for Agile, but with an improved attitude-control system. Hypseo is viewed as a technology demonstrator for a future, larger hyperspectral imager intended to be flown alongside Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed radar Earth observation satellites. Four Cosmo-Skymed spacecraft are scheduled to be launched between 2007 and 2009.
Once the ASI program rhythm is assured, Carlo Gavazzi will target the European Space Agency (ESA) as its next market. Italy is ESA’s third-largest contributor after France and Germany, a position that gives it automatic access to a certain annual level of ESA contracts.
said ESA’s telecommunications program, Artes, and the agency’s Earth observation missions are the two most likely customers for Carlo Gavazzi’s MITA-related products.
Inside the Artes program is ESA’s new Small-GEO development, under which OHB is building a small telecommunications satellite for geostationary orbit. It is a program financed mainly by the German government, but Zucconi said there remains a 30 percent gap in Small-Geo program funding and that the Italian government is deliberating to determine
whether it should
sign up with this commitment in return for guarantees that Italian companies receive corresponding contracts.
ESA’s Earth observation program includes a place for small missions, but there is no immediate contract opportunity for a full satellite of MITA proportions in ESA’s budget.
“What we hope to do over time is improve our position within ESA,” Zucconi said. “With the new direction at ASI we are optimistic about our ability to do this.”