LE BOURGET, France — Fast-growing satellite and rocket hardware manufacturer OHB of Germany, which already has operations in Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg, has established a foothold in Sweden with the purchase of the Space Systems division of SSC, officials with the companies said.
The transaction, described as an asset deal in which OHB assumes the risks of the Space Systems division’s future performance, was concluded for a symbolic price of 1 Swedish krona, or about 15 U.S. cents, according to two officials.
The Space Systems division has reported revenue of about 10 million euros ($14 million) per year in recent years and counts 53 employees who will remain where they are and will be organized under the name of OHB Sweden, OHB Chief Executive Marco R. Fuchs said June 23.
In an interview, Fuchs said OHB hopes to take advantage of any increase in Swedish government space spending in the coming years. Sweden’s space budget is not increasing now, and SSC — 100 percent government-owned but operated as a profit-making enterprise — had been trying to sell the Space Systems division for about a year.
The Space Systems division includes SSC’s work as a subcontractor on the OHB-led Small-Geo satellite platform, which is being financed by the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA). Fuchs said OHB wanted to consolidate the Small-Geo contracting team and that a purchase of the Swedish team by a larger company might have meant relocating it or shutting it down.
In a June 20 statement, OHB said SSC has “an essential share in the development and construction of the [Small-Geo] platform, which is of material importance to the OHB Group.”
In a transaction that had similar motivations, OHB recently purchased the Belgian operations of Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy when the Franco-Italian manufacturer decided that the Belgian operation was too small to be retained on its own.
Under ESA’s geographic-return rules, each nation contributing to an ESA program is promised that most of its contribution will return in the form of contracts to its national industry. The new OHB Sweden thus stands to gain with any increase in Swedish space spending.
SSC Chief Executive Lars Persson said June 22 that SSC is glad the transfer of ownership was done with a company that already works with the Space Systems division.
“It is really a good fit and it will be good for OHB to open operations in a new country,” Persson said in an interview. “This is very much the right step for the people in the division, and for the industry. The division is going into a bigger company with a full order book.”
Persson confirmed that SSC had been trying to sell the division for a year and had reviewed other possible transactions that offered less in the way of growth for the division.
In addition to its work on the Small-Geo satellite platform, the new OHB Sweden manages the Swedish Prisma two-satellite formation-flying system, which includes an experimental satellite fuel that SSC believes one day should replace hydrazine.
The German space agency, DLR, has recently leased the Prisma system from SSC to test its capabilities and give Germany a better idea for future formation-flying projects.
“This is a buildup of expertise that has occurred over more than 20 years,” Persson said of the division. He said OHB has made no commitment to retain the staff in Sweden, and he declined to comment on whether the transaction’s terms included a cash investment by SSC to sweeten the offer.