It is a privilege to meet a pioneer of space travel. And it is a fortunate coincidence that a space pioneer can successfully implement his ideas and visions together with his team. Prof. h.c. Manfred Fuchs was just such a space pioneer achieving this with outstanding success and playing a very special role not only for OHB, but for others as well. A charismatic visionary, he would have turned 80 today. This marks a suitable occasion for commemorating his achievements in the German and European space industry as well as his entrepreneurial activities.
Born in South Tyrol, Manfred Fuchs was a man of the first hour at Entwicklungsring Nord (ERNO) at the beginning of the 1960s. Among other things, he worked on designs for the Europa rocket and was later lauded as the initiator of the Columbus program. In 1985, he joined “Otto Hydraulik Bremen”, placing the 5-man company on a course towards the stars. His clever ideas and foresight caused the company to advance quickly, with his spirit repeatedly inspiring and motivating all those around him. His visions and many of his business decisions shaped OHB and continue to leave their traces on the Company to this very day. OHB is now one of the top names in the European space industry, addressing the entire spectrum of space applications. 2,500 people in Europe currently work in the growing OHB family of companies.
Development to become the European Number 3
The proverbial garage company, which he led together with his wife Christa, was imbued with the spirit of a start-up back in the 1980s, at a time when this term was unknown in Germany. Although Manfred Fuchs invariably saw the big picture, he bucked the prevailing trend, quickly recognizing the merits of smaller, lighter and thus cheaper satellites.
The “Professor” was always open to fresh ideas and innovations, looking for new ways of making space travel simpler. The testimony to his endeavors is OHB’s first satellite constellation, which went into operation in 2007: SAR-Lupe consists of five identical, small and modular satellites which are still providing extremely reliable service in orbit. The successful plan was adopted by the OHB Group for other satellite projects.
This Manfred Fuchs vision also became a reality in the form of the SmallGEO satellite family in the two-to-three-ton class. The first SmallGEO has been in service as a telecommunications satellite since the beginning of 2017, orbiting at an altitude of 36,000 km. Manfred Fuchs did not live to experience this great success in his company’s history.
Nor was he able to watch the launch of the Galileo satellites developed and built by OHB. The fact that four OHB-built Galileo satellites are being launched today at the same time would certainly have been a very special birthday present for him. This is precisely because he was the one who gave the order back in 2007 to secure orders for two Galileo satellites for OHB System AG, which was much smaller at the time. Even Manfred Fuchs probably could not foresee that ten years later 34 satellites would be ordered from the Bremen-based satellite manufacturer!
A passion for the Moon
Right from the start, Manfred Fuchs was captivated by the Moon. For a long time, he fought for a return to the Moon and was far ahead of his time in this respect. Unfortunately, his “Mona Lisa” lunar mission remained an unfulfilled dream despite his tireless efforts. Yet, he did not let this setback stop him. Instead, he looked forward as usual and was ready for new challenges. A private “Manfred Moon Memorial Mission” (4M) was sent to the Moon posthumously in his memory. The fact that radio amateurs from all over the world were involved during the mission would certainly have delighted the philanthropist in Manfred Fuchs.
Due to their success, his ideas and visions will continue to reveal traces on OHB’s hardware and products for many years to come. Yet, they also shaped German and European space travel as well as the many people he encountered in his professional life. His great enthusiasm and perseverance repeatedly motivated many employees to aspire to new heights. He wanted to anchor the agility and flexibility of the early days in the growing company’s DNA and use the company’s expertise and increasing clout wisely. He remained open to unconventional ideas and pragmatic solutions but never forgot what it meant to be human. Thus, he had an open ear for employees’ concerns and was fair in his relations with business partners and competitors.
He was known, recognized and appreciated as an entrepreneur and space expert far beyond the borders of Germany. It is therefore only fitting that the municipal council of the Bavarian town of Weßling named a street after him: “Manfred-Fuchs-Straße 1” is the address of OHB System AG offices there.
Prof. Dott.-Ing. h.c. Manfred Fuchs passed away in April 2014 aged 75 years. He achieved and experienced much in his private and professional life. He surely had many plans for the future and had a wealth of other visionary ideas up his sleeve!