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Next German radar satellite to be private venture?

Le Bourget, France: The German Government is considering allowing private sector to take over full financial responsibility for future civil German radar satellites. According to Germany’s space agency, the latest development is in the light of the slower-than-expected radar imagery revenue.
Johann-Dietrich Woerner, executive chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said that while Germany is still pushing industry to assume an increasing share of the risk of building Earth observation satellites, it may be too soon to insist that industry go it alone.
“A full private investment in the next-generation satellite, TerreSAR-X 2, was what we had said we wanted,” Woerner said during the Paris air show. “This was the basic idea, but we are now discussing whether this is feasible.”
Earlier, TerreSAR-X was launched in June 2007 at a cost of approximately EUR 185 million, or USD 260 million at current exchange rates, including launch charges. The German division of a company called Astrium Geo-Information Services paid 20 percent of that sum in return for exclusive rights to commercialise the radar data. DLR paid the remaining 80 percent. In addition, a twin satellite, called TanDEM-X, was launched in June 2010. Its EUR 165 million in cost was paid 75 percent by DLR and 25 percent by Astrium Geo-Information Services.
Both satellites are healthy in orbit and delivering imagery with a ground resolution of between 1 meter and 16 meters, depending on the desired observation mode and swath width. Since late 2010, they have been moved to within 350 meters of each other to operate in tandem to produce a stereo map of the Earth’s entire land mass.
Since the launch of TerreSAR-X, Astrium Geo-Information Services, which is part of Astrium Services and a subsidiary of Europe’s EADS aerospace conglomerate, has been informed by the French government that future French Spot optical Earth observation satellites will be the sole responsibility of the private sector.
Astrium Services is now spending around EUR 300 million to build and launch the Spot 6 and Spot 7 satellites, which will succeed the larger Spot 5 satellite that is now in orbit and well past its contracted retirement date.
While Astrium Services is one of EADS’s most profitable businesses, the market for Earth observation imagery, and particularly radar data, has not grown as fast as expected. Eric Beranger, chief executive of Astrium Services, said many governments — which remain the majority market for Earth observation data of all kinds — have reduced their budget for Earth observation data as part of broader spending cutbacks.
The French government is financing the launch of two high-resolution Pleiades optical Earth observation satellites, each with a 70-centimeter imager, for commercial, civil government and military use. The first is set for launch on the second Europeanised version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket, a launch that has been tentatively scheduled for mid-December. Astrium Geo-Information Services will have access to Pleiades data, but Beranger said neither the French nor any other government has committed to any purchases of Spot 6 and Spot 7 data. Astrium officials have said the French government’s decision not to take part in the satellites’ financing means French government agencies will be paying a lot more per Spot image than they have paid in the past.
Source: Space News