One man’s bid to secure a contract for two satellites

How OHB became the prime contractor for the FOC* satellites for the European satellite navigation system Galileo

“Secure one or two satellites” were Dr Ingo Engeln’s orders from company founder and visionary Manfred Fuchs (1938 – 2014). No one would have predicted that, ten years later, OHB System AG would build 34 satellites for the navigation system.

Dr Engeln promptly set about carefully preparing the bid over the months that followed. He soon found the ideal partner in the guise of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL). Together the two companies bid for the contract. “Our working relationship is governed by a document comprising just one page,” revealed Dr Engeln, who today is Director of Reconnaissance Systems and Ground Stations for OHB System AG. “And the document essentially stands to this day. As manufacturer of the satellite platform and systems integrator, OHB is responsible for the satellite concept, the satellite platform, integration of the satellites and their verification. In addition, we provide the necessary support during the launch preparations and during in-orbit verification of our satellites. For each satellite, SSTL supplies the navigation payload and supports the integration and testing of it.”

Dr. Ingo Engeln © OHB


“At that time, we were newcomers to the ESA, at least in the field of navigation satellites. One advantage we had was that the SAR-Lupe contract had also given us experience of classified work. Besides, we really wanted to win the contract. At the end of 2008, we were one of two candidates who had qualified to bid for a FOC satellite,” recalled Dr Engeln. “We managed to beat theother candidate hands down and, at the beginning of 2010, were awarded the contract for 14 FOC satellites. This took some supposed industry experts quite by surprise. We were all over the moon: the younger employees wanted to parade through Bremen in celebration...” OHB also secured the contract in 2012 for the second batch of eight satellites. “By this point in time, we had proven our expertise and reliability in the two-year development and procurement phase,” said Dr Engeln.

The next launch of four satellites in summer 2018 will not only complete the constellation but includes the first spares that will supplement the constellation

Dr Wolfgang Paetsch, Director of Navigation, Earth Observation and Science at OHB System



In August 2014, the first two navigation satellites to be developed and built by OHB took off from the launch pad in Kourou. Initially, the OHB satellites were launched in pairs by a Soyuz rocket. At the end of 2017, a quartet of satellites was successfully launched into space for the second time on board an Ariane 5 ES launch vehicle. This brought the number of FOC satellites from OHB in space to 18. “The next launch of four satellites in summer 2018 will not only complete the constellation but includes the first spares that will supplement the constellation,” said Dr Wolfgang Paetsch, Director of Navigation, Earth Observation and Science at OHB System.


“The quality of our navigation satellites has once again spoken for itself. I am very grateful to the European Commission and the European Space Agency for the trust they placed in us and our partners,” said Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB SE and OHB System AG. His fellow board member Dr  Paetsch added, “We have also secured the third batch: in June 2017 we were contracted to build eight Galileo satellites before the European Commission exercised a contractual option in October 2017 and ordered four further satellites.”


“The ambitious time line ensures that reserve satellites will be available in future both in orbit and on Earth,” said Dr Paetsch. “However, the 34 OHB satellites on order have not made us complacent: for some time now our experts have been working on concepts for the next generation of satellites and the other services they will provide.”


*) The Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo programme is managed and fully funded by the European Union. The Commission and ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission. The views expressed here can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union and/or ESA. “Galileo” is a trademark subject to OHIM application number 002742237 by EU and ESA

The quartet floats in: Four navigation satellites developed and manufactured by OHB System AG are being prepared for launch with an Ariane 5 ES rocket at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana © ESA/CNES/Arianespace


The European satellite navigation system Galileo will offer people in Europe and around the world an array of useful navigation applications. 24 operational satellites arranged in three planes, plus reserve satellites and a global network of ground stations can provide satellite navigation with an unprecedented level of accuracy and availability. The system went live on 15 December 2016.

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