Small, modular and ultramodern: Europe in a geostationary orbit
On March 7, 2007, Bremen-based space technology company OHB-System AG was awarded a contract by the European Space Agency ESA for the next development phases of the “SmallGEO” small geostationary satellite.
The signing today of the partnership agreement between OHB and the other European project members Swedish Space Corporation (Sweden), Oerlikon Space AG (Switzerland) and Luxspace Sárl (Luxembourg) marks the first step in the construction of the first SmallGEO. This pioneer is to go into orbit as early as in late 2010 at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. On the basis of market analyses, OHB projects demand for up to eight satellites per year and will be able to supply at least one satellite a year.
Potential customers include small countries, telecommunications carriers and up-and-coming satellite operators. A user has already been found for the first SmallGEO. “This development gives Europe an ultramodern platform,” explains Prof. Manfred Fuchs, CEO of OHB-System AG. One of the special features of this development is that SmallGEOs assembled by OHB can be launched using all available carriers. The satellites have a modular structure.
Take-off for a geostationary orbit
Until now, OHB satellites have been moving in orbits close to the earth. With SmallGEOs, OHB is pursuing the aim of producing inexpensive satellites with a small mass and volume and placing them in a geostationary orbit. Known as LUX, this project was commenced in 2003 and sought to develop a highly efficient satellite array for communications and scientific research. OHB initially funded the project itself. However, it did not take long to convince the German Space Agency DLR of the merits of the idea. As a result, it is supporting the program with a funding contract, having realized that no geostationary satellites have been developed and built in Germany for over ten years. The final obstacles were cleared in December 2005 at the ESA council of ministers conference. Germany has assumed lead management in the development of small geostationary satellites, or small GEOs for short. Initiated by OHB, the development of a geostationary platform has been established as a separate component of the long-term ESA schedule under the program name ARTES-11.