Competent launch services are a highly competitive growth market worldwide. Systems must be flexible in order to deliver satellites of all classes into space in a service that is quick and cost-effective, regardless of whether they weigh 50 kilos or several tonnes. The OHB Group’s efficient solutions are a competitive force to be reckoned with.
The history of the European Ariane rocket is closely linked to OHB SE and its subsidiaries. Back when he worked at Entwicklungsring Nord (today Airbus), OHB founder Manfred Fuchs did the groundwork for the successful development of the European launch system. Having reliable access to space is absolutely essential for a satellite manufacturer, so transport systems have always been a focus within the Group.
ENTERING THE LAUNCH BUSINESS
OHB entered the launch services business as far back as the 1990s when it established Cosmos International Satellitenstart GmbH. It began with Russian Cosmos launch vehicles. These were cheap, robust and powerful and gave the company considerable competitive advantages.
The purchase of MAN Neue Technologie – today MT Aerospace AG – meant that the OHB Group became the lead German supplier for the Ariane rocket in 2005. The Augsburg-based MT Aerospace has been involved in the European signature project for more than four decades now. Since 2005, therefore, OHB has played a part in ensuring Europe’s independent access to space. The success of the endeavour is confirmation that this was the right strategic decision: MT Aerospace’s turnover has doubled in the past twelve years and now, more than ever, it is an indispensable component of Europe’s space industry.
EUROPE’S SIGNATURE PROJECT
MT Aerospace is also playing an important role in the development of the future Ariane 6, which is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2020. The company from Augsburg is a main contractor, with a 10% work share, responsible mainly for the fuel tanks and metallic structural components. In addition, for more than 40 years MT Aerospace and MT Mechatronics have played a key role in the realisation of all launch facilities for the six Ariane generations at the spaceport in Kourou.
Firstly, technological advances in the Industry 4.0 era have made a tripling of productivity possible. Secondly, the Ariane 6 programme is a step-up in terms of finances, resources and flexibility: overall, the project is 40% cheaper and re-ignitable. Ariane 62 will launch payloads of up to six tonnes and will replace the europeanised Russian Soyuz launch vehicle. Ariane 64 is capable of launching up to twelve tonnes and is therefore intended for large missions.
FLEXIBLE LAUNCHER SOLUTIONS
The ESA recently commissioned MT Aerospace to do a feasibility study on smaller launch vehicle systems. This is in response to the growing demand from companies looking for commercial launch service packages to launch microsatellites into low-Earth orbit. The study will develop three micro-launch concepts in collaboration with various partners, e.g., a two- to three-stage scenario for payloads up to 200 kilos, so that such companies will no longer be reliant on rideshares on large missions. “Launch vehicles and optimising the technology and cost aspects is part of our core business,” said Hans J. Steiniger, CEO of MT Aerospace. In developing such systems, the OHB Group is playing its part in helping Europe to achieve and, indeed, maintain its pioneering role in space.
SPACE LAUNCH BROKER
It is extremely important for the space companies within the Group to have fast, flexible and cheap access to space. For this very reason, moreand more OHB companies are entering the launch sector, OHB Italia among them. The Milan-based company recently played a leading role in the launch services for the satellite system OPTSAT- 3000 for the Italian Ministry of Defence. 2018 will see the launch of another Italian mission, the Earth observation satellite PRISMA, which will be used in environmental monitoring and for national security applications. OHB Italia is responsible for the launch of the 900 kg satellite aboard the ultra-light Vega launcher from the spaceport in Kourou on behalf of the Italian Space Agency (ASI). “Our aim is to provide access to space at competitive terms. To this end, we intend to establish ourselves as a space launch broker,” said Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB SE, commenting on the Group’s plans for the future, which, with the new OHB Cosmos International, offers various in-orbit and launch services in an uncomplicated, customized and cost-efficient manner.