December 15, 2017

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Satellite technology – Made in Germany

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Telecommunications satellit from Germany Employee of the Bremen satellite builder OHB in the examination of a telecommunication satellite. (Photo: dpa)

Kourou / BremenIf the Soyuz rocket has reached its limits on its fire beam and has successfully exposed its high-tech cargo, Andreas Lindenthal is likely to fall a big stone from the heart. “The nervousness increases,” says the board member of the Bremen satellite builder OHB at the presentation of the new satellite platform SmallGEO on Monday.

Lindenthal looks hopefully at the next Saturday night (January 28). Then, a launch vehicle with the first satellite from the series SmallGEO is to be launched by the French-Guyana space car base in Kourou, with which German industry wants to recapture lost terrain in the space market.

For some 25 years no telecommunication satellite has been built in Germany. “We were already on the road, but we lost a bit,” says Gerd Gruppe, a member of the board at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The new satellite platform SmallGEO is a leap into another league for the Bremen company OHB, which so far built satellites with lower airports. “The communications market is the largest satellite market, that is the most competitive,” says Lindenthal. There are heavyweights like Boeing in the USA, as well as Thales Alenia Space and the Airbus space division, who are building satellites in France.

SmallGEO was developed under a program to promote technology for the European Space Agency Esa. OHB has been working on this for about ten years. The first satellite, which is based on the SmallGEO platform and is now sent into space, is called “Hispasat 36W-1”. It was built as a public-private partnership with the Spanish satellite operator Hispasat.

“It is the largest satellite ever built by OHB,” says Lindenthal, quantifying the cost including the payload of around 400 million euros. According to DLR figures, the development and construction of SmallGEO has resulted in more than 300 million euros of public funding, while Germany contributed around 150 million euros.