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All systems go at Astrium

By Peter Fitzgibbon - 5th January 2014 - 14:01

Along with other journalists, we met with Dr. Bernhard Brenner, Executive Director of the GEO-Information Division at Astrium Services in Toulouse, to get an inside track on progress as the company prepares for this year’s launch of SPOT 7

Less than a year into his latest appointment with EADS, Bernhard Brenner can reflect on some significant achievements: clinching an agreement to provide 50 cm. resolution satellite imagery to Google; sealing a deal with GeoNorth in Alaska that will see operation of the first ever multi-satellite Direct Receiving Station; finalising preparations for this year’s launch of the SPOT 7 optical Earth Observation satellite; introducing a raft of new imagery products and services, and mounting an impressive global campaign to connect with customers across a range of markets and industries.

Q: In a highly competitive global market, how is Astrium GEO faring compare to its competitors?

Bernhard Brenner (BB): We are pretty well balanced in terms of our geographic presence, with a third of our revenues coming from Asia, a third from Europe, and the remainder from elsewhere. It’s perhaps easier to achieve this balance than those whose principal source of income is from, say, the domestic defence market. Even in a difficult economic climate, we’re managing to grow annual revenues by eight per cent.

Q: What factors are at play in driving the business?

BB: A big factor is our exclusive access to data from a range of EO satellites: SPOT, Pléiades, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X, coupled with strong partnerships with other operators. It adds up to the most complete range of data on the market and an ability to supply it at the required scale and in the required timescale. Our focus on applications and services, and not simply data, is another factor, as is internal demand from other EADS divisions such as Airbus and Cassidian.

Q: Where your biggest competitor has the advantage of government-funded programmes to underwrite their satellites, isn’t the entirely EADS-funded SPOT 6/7 satellite programme a big risk?

BB: If you finance with your own money, your belief in the programme is total. EADS is committed to space, not just because we build satellites but because we make money from their deliverables. It’s easy for those whose programmes are funded by others - but we don’t have an NGIA in Europe!

Q: Although headquartered in France, where else does Astrium GEO operate?

BB: We are currently represented by more than 900 people in 20 offices in a dozen countries. This includes a production centre in Hungary, a processing centre in Colorado, USA, and Europe’s largest commercial geospatial hosting/archiving facility in the UK. And, of course, we are represented through a world-wide commercial network of more than 100 distributors and partners.

Q: Won’t resellers find themselves competing with Astrium GEO’s new GeoStore portal?

BB: Not at all. GeoStore is our Internet approach for those placing small orders and will not replace our resellers who will always add value, being closer to their customers. Indeed, we will be seeking more partnerships with resellers and integrators to address specific applications.

Q: Astrium GEO is currently concentrating on some specific markets, not least oil and gas. Can you say more on this?

BB: Yes, we signed Spatial Energy in 2012 as our first global reseller to the world-wide oil and gas industry. As such, it is using our elevation data, global oil seeps database and geological imagery to provide customers with detailed geospatial information throughout their entire exploration and production workflows.

Q: What other markets are you addressing in terms of their potential?

BB: The potential for defence applications is huge and is being addressed in a range of new Astrium GEO products that helps customers detect and describe, observe and track, share and collaborate. One of our latest is Go Monitor, the only global service delivering satellite imagery 24/7 over secure Web links and with a guaranteed revisit frequency for any Area Of Interest. A Digital Terrain Model based on our World DEM product will be launched this year and will be relevant to a range of applications – oil and gas exploration, crisis planning and emergency response – as well as defence and security.

Read More: Aerial Imaging Satellite Imaging Aerospace

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