German Minister Pushes for More Funding, Job Growth for Space

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  Space News Business

German Minister Pushes for More Funding, Job Growth for Space

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 30 January 2008
02:42 pm ET





FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany — The prime minister of Baden-Wurttemberg, a German state, said Germany should increase its space budget, and its technology-research spending in general, as a way of ensuring that high-paying engineering jobs remain in the country.

Guenther Oettinger, who was visiting the Astrium Satellites facility here Jan. 18 to witness the signature of the BepiColombo mercury-orbiter satellite contract, began his remarks by talking about Europe’s need to be independent of the United States in science and specifically in satellite navigation.

But Oettinger soon dropped the message of strategic independence to focus on the space industry’s role in employment in his state.



“This is the No. 1




space center in Baden-Wurttemberg,” Oettinger said. “We have a shortage of skilled labor and we are going to need young engineers. In the space facility here, you have a per capita value added equivalent to 280,000 euros ($409




,000) per year. In some metallurgy industries I know, the per capita value added is less than half that – 125,000 euros.”

Astrium
employs some 1,900 people in Baden-Wurttemberg, including around 900 at the facility here used to build scientific satellites and for the new Infoterra GmbH company that is commercializing radar Earth observation services.

Some 800 people work at TesatSpacecom in nearby Backnang, a wholly owned Astrium division that is run as a separate company. A rocket- and satellite-propulsion test facility in Lampoldshausen employs about 250 people for Astrium, plus others that work for the German aerospace center, DLR.

Astrium
officials sought to highlight the down-to-Earth aspects of its presence in Baden-Wurttemberg as part of their preparation for a November conference of European space ministers of the 17-nation European Space Agency (ESA). The meeting, which occurs about once every three years, sets Europe’s long-term space-policy goals and budgets.

Germany accounts for 17.6 percent of ESA’s 2008 budget of about 3 billion euros. Germany’s contribution is second only to that of France, which accounts for 18.4 percent of ESA’s budget.

Uwe
Minne, director of Earth observation and science at Astrium and also the manager of the Friedrichshafen site, said annual contract volume is around 250 million euros, mainly from ESA and the German government.

Oettinger’s
value-added estimate for the Friedrichshafen site is derived from dividing the annual sales volume by the 900 on-site Astrium employees. It illustrates the language that Astrium officials must use when they push for added government backing for space programs.

Company officials here said they are lobbying for German government approval of a proposed German lunar orbiter, and for a German lead position in the next-generation European Meteosat weather satellites.

Oettinger
is not directly involved in decisions on these programs, but he said Baden-Wurttemberg already had reached the European Union goal of investing 3 percent of its budget into research and development – if the industrial research budgets in the region are included.

Minne
said the BepiColombo program will be the biggest single source of revenue for the Friedrichshafen plant in at least a decade.

ESA’s
contracts are distributed to companies in strict proportion to their governments’ contribution to the program in question. A prime contractor such as Astrium Satellites is eligible to bid for subcontractor work, but in these cases ESA steps in to decide a winner to avoid a conflict of interest between the prime contractor acting as program manager and one competing with other companies for lower-tier work.

Rainer Best, BepiColombo project manager at Astrium, said the Friedrichshafen site will retain only 60 million euros – less than 20 percent – of the 350.9-million-euro BepiColombo contract that was signed here Jan. 18.

Another 40 million euros will go to Astrium Satellites Ltd. of Britain – same corporate ownership, but located in Britain and qualifying for funds allocated to that country. ThalesAlenia Space Italy will receive about 40 million euros in BepiColombo contracts from Astrium GmbH as well.

Thales
Alenia Space’s French work force will have only a small role in BepiColombo because France’s recent work on other ESA science satellites has given France an over-return on its ESA science investment, said Jacques Louet, head of ESA science projects.