The news that our long-time member of the Management Board and respected friend, Dipl.-Ing. Ulrich Schulz, passed away in Calgary on 17 March 2023 after a short period of illness at the age of only 72 came as a surprise and was completely unexpected. We are devastated that we have to say goodbye to a very special person whose name is associated with OHB like hardly any other.
Our paths crossed as early as 1982. Uli wanted to move from Wiesbaden to Bremen for love's sake and heard about the great spirit of optimism in a small hydraulics workshop called OHB, which we had just taken over.
He had his doubts for a short while because he couldn't find the company at first and wasn't very impressed by the sight of the "little shop", but after we had talked to him about our visions and plans, he decided to give up his secure job and joined us in the OHB adventure.
The possibility of always being able to do new things convinced Uli. The fact that he was a very open-minded and adventurous person became apparent several times during his eventful life.
Uli was our first engineer and started as head of development and construction. His very first project demanded a lot of new things from him, because the subject matter was an oil-skimming vessel. Uli once described it in an interview as follows: "That was a wild time. I came to Bremen as a young aeronautical engineer and was suddenly asked to outfit a ship. All I knew was that they float, otherwise I had no idea about shipbuilding." These were precisely the challenges that Uli was looking for and that drove him to peak performance.
For four weeks he virtually lived on this ship, crawling around and tracing pipelines to understand the whole system. In the end, he and his small team developed a hydraulic propulsion system that could universally switch to control other systems on board. The ship was launched in 1984 and is still operating successfully today.
Exploring, discovering, inventing new things was the motto for us as well as for Uli. In 1985 his first space project came along: a centrifuge for examining blood and urine samples in the Space Shuttle laboratory Spacelab. Required was a functional prototype for only 100,000 DM, which should also already be qualified for use in space. The time until delivery was short. And again, Uli was at his best: "We bought a conventional centrifuge with an egg timer from the medical sector for 900 DM and made it space-worthy. The motor was rewound, outdated electronics were converted to display technology. Unlike other 'established and well-known' major competitors, we delivered a fully functional centrifuge."
Another space project for which Uli took the lead was the quirl tank. It was used to separate liquids and gases of different densities by centrifugal force and micro-g conditions. Special rotors were developed for this purpose, which were successfully qualified for use in space during parabolic flights at the American space centre in Houston/Texas.
On the side-lines, Uli Schulz and Manfred Fuchs used the waiting time to sketch OHB's first organisational chart. In this chart, Uli rose to the position of Director of Development in 1988. This era included project work on the FALKE space glider and responsibility for the development, construction, and operation of OHB’s first small satellites such as SAFIR. He held this post for a good ten years before new ideas called him to new tasks.
In 1996, he became managing director of OHB Teledata, which focused on the utilisation of space technologies. In 2001, the company went public. Ulrich Schulz was there as CTO for product development and customer service. From 2002 onwards, Uli, the man of the first hour, was Chief Operating Officer Technology of OHB SE and thus responsible for the technical cooperation of the OHB companies, for mergers, for product developments and services for the industry. His down-to-earth nature never changed as he rose through the ranks.
He has played a key role in shaping OHB from the very beginning. His open-minded, analytical, and pragmatic nature made him a valued all-rounder professionally and a well-liked and pleasant discussion partner, advisor and friend on a personal level. He loved new tasks and found solutions and ways to implement them successfully.
Even in his private life, Ulrich Schulz enjoyed breaking new ground. He had already established his retirement home with his family in Canada at an early stage. But the family father did not think about retirement. He founded the independent space company NexusSpace with us as a technology partner and worked relentlessly until the end on the development of an Earth observation system that would monitor environmental changes and detect, measure, and quantify emissions worldwide in real time.
We will honour the memory of this special person. Uli already grew close to our hearts when he came down the small garage driveway towards the workshop in 1982 and embarked on the OHB adventure with us.
We will miss him very much!