Germany’s TerraSAR-X Launched

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  Space News Business

Germany’s TerraSAR-X Launched

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 21 June 2007
11:14 am ET








PARIS —


The company created to sell imagery from Germany’s high-resolution civilian radar satellite, TerraSAR-X, which was successfully launched June 15 aboard a Dnepr rocket, is awaiting publication of German government guidelines as to which governments may receive the imagery, and which ones will be denied




.

Joerg
Hermann, managing director of Infoterra GmbH of Friedrichshafen, Germany, said early indications are that the regulations, which are expected to emerge this year from Germany’s Bundestag, or parliament, will give the company sufficient marketing leeway to fulfill its business plan.

Infoterra
, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astrium Satellites GmbH, has set itself an ambitious sales agenda. In a June 15 interview, Hermann said he




is sticking with earlier forecasts that, by 2012, Infoterra sales of data products from TerraSAR-X and a similar satellite, TanDem-X, to be launched in 2009, will reach nearly 200 million euros ($268




million) per year and perhaps more.

Military and civil government customers are the prime target markets. Hermann said the eight-month delay in the launch of TerraSAR-X, due mainly to a mid-2006 Dnepr failure, had caused Infoterra to lose expected revenues. But the core customer base, he said, remains solid.

“Dealing with governments, we have customers that had booked orders with us under budgets that disappear at the end of each year,” Hermann said. “So these revenues have been lost to us. But other radar satellites are also late in arriving, so basically we have the same business plan starting a year later.”

The 1,346-kilogram TerraSAR-X, equipped with a radar imager capable of discerning




objects 1 meter in diameter, was placed into a 514-kilometer near-polar low Earth orbit by a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket launched from Russia’s BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Dnepr is a silo-launched converted SS-18 ballistic missile marketed




for space launches by ISC Kosmotras of Moscow. Hermann said ground controllers at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, confirmed the health of the satellite in orbit. Hermann said commercial operations are expected to begin in six months, following an extensive in-orbit checkout of the satellite’s systems.

TerraSAR
-X includes two secondary payloads. One is a laser communications terminal




built by TesatSpacecom of Backnang, Germany, which will communicate with an identical terminal launched in April aboard an experimental




U.S. Missile Defense Agency satellite.

Tesat
Spacecom hopes to prove the utility, for military, commercial and civil-governmental markets, of high-speed laser-optical data links




between satellites.

TerraSAR
-X




also carries




a Tracking, Occultation and Ranging (TOR) Experiment, built by GFZ Earth observation center in Potsdam, Germany, and the University of Texas Space Research Center. Equipped with a GPS receiver and a laser reflector, TOR is designed to aid TerraSAR-X’s maneuverability in orbit.

The launch of TerraSAR-X adds a third source of commercial radar imagery to what has been a small global market led by Canada’s Radarsat spacecraft.

The launch came less than two weeks after the first of four Italian Cosmo-Skymed




radar satellites was placed into orbit. Part of Cosmo-Skymed’s




image harvest, and all of its submeter




-resolution capacity, is reserved for




Italian and French defense authorities under a




bilateral




sharing arrangement




.

The remaining data will be available for both commercial and civil-government use.

TerraSAR
-X was financed by DLR and by prime contractor Astrium Satellites GmbH of Friedrichshafen




. The satellite was built and launched for about




130 million euros ($174




million)




. The ground facilities built to handle the imagery, plus the costs of operating the satellite for a planned five years, add another




55 million euros to the program’s budget.



Of this total of 185 million euros, DLR paid nearly 80 percent, with Astrium and Infoterra financing the rest. Half of TerraSAR’s imagery will be reserved for scientific users. The remaining half will be sold commercially.





Once Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite is launched this fall




,




MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. of Richmond, British Columbia, will compete directly with Infoterra and with E-Geos, a new company led by Telespazio of Italy to market Cosmo-Skymed data products, to supply high-resolution radar data to customers worldwide.

Hermann said he did not rule out a cooperation agreement, for at least some markets, with E-Geos and MacDonald




Dettwiler.