PARIS — Thales will redeploy space-related activities at Thales Alenia Space (TAS) to enable the Franco-Italian space contractor to establish a significant presence in Germany.
In releasing final 2010 results Feb. 25, Chairman/CEO Luc Vigneron said the company will transfer undisclosed equipment activities to TAS so it can build up an industrial base in Germany that will allow it to bid more effectively for German and European institutional awards. The activity will “just be a kernel initially,” he says, “but will grow over time.”
TAS already has a sizable industrial footprint in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, but not in Germany, which is Europe’s second-biggest space spender.
The drawback came to the fore last year when the company was picked, together with OHB System of Germany, to supply the space segment of Europe’s €2.8 billion ($3.8 billion) Meteosat Third Generation weather satellite system. German government and industry leaders complained that the scope of work given to German companies would not allow them to mount a credible challenge for future weather satellite competitions, and forced the European Space Agency (ESA), which is managing development for Eumetsat, to alter the contract.
It is likely the new base will be ready in time for the €2.3-3.2 billion Eumetsat Polar System-Second Generation weather satellite network, which is expected to be competed in 2013, after the next ESA ministerial summit. It also would give TAS a firmer footing for participating in later phases of the Galileo navigation satellite system, Germany’s second-generation SARLupe military radar surveillance constellation and other programs, as well as in Germany’s well-funded domestic government space technology activities. The company is a minor subcontractor to OHB on the first batch of 14 Galileo spacecraft and supplies the radar electronics for SARLupe.
Space contributed significantly to the Thales’s top line last year, accounting for five major orders, including the Iridium and O3b communications constellations, France’s new-generation optical surveillance network CSO, the Yamal 401-402 spacecraft for Russia’s Gazprom and, with sister company Telespazio, Turkey’s Gokturk surveillance satellite system. But with competition in the sector increasing, Vigneron says, future growth will require greater inroads in civil and military institutional markets, more focused research and development, and better rationalization of activities.