OHB System AG

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18th European Space Mechanisms and Tribology Symposium
Munich, Germany – Hosted by OHB
18th-20th September 2019

OHB System AG

Introducing OHB System AG

The systems specialist OHB System AG is one of the leading independent forces in European space. We have been making a name for ourselves on the market with our creative and business approach for a good 35 years particularly in our core business comprising low-orbiting and geostationary satellites. We are developing and executing some of the key projects of our times such as the Galileo navigation satellites, the SARah reconnaissance system, the MTG meteorological satellites, the EnMAP environment satellite, the TET-1 technology testing vehicle and the Hispasat H36W-1, ELECTRA and EDRS-C telecommunications satellites.

In human space flight, we are working intensively on humanity’s most remote outpost, the International Space Station ISS. We were materially involved in assembling and equipping the Columbus research laboratory fitted to the ISS and the ATV space freighter as well as numerous experiment systems used on board the ISS.

Ideas and systems for studying our solar system form the core of our exploration activities. OHB System is working intensively on ESA’s two-part flagship mission ExoMars as well as on further studies for exploring and charting the moon, Mars, Jupiter and other celestial bodies.

Broadband wireless transmission of image data forms a core technology for security and reconnaissance. Our Process Control Systems segment is responsible for the successful transfer of space technology for use in industrial applications.

OHB System traditionally combines the technologies of leading national and international companies to develop new solutions. With these partnerships and the effective participation in syndicates, we have been a sought-after and reliable partner for the European Space Agency ESA, the German Aerospace Center DLR, the German Federal Ministry of Defense as well as for customers in the private and public sector for several decades.

OHB-System’s Current Programmes

Space needs visions. Each idea has its own particular time and requires a certain period in which to reach fruition. And each idea is preceded by a vision. In the absence of imagination, courage and a willingness to take risks, progress falters. Having visions means thinking in terms of the future.

And this is precisely what we have been doing at OHB. The idea is to make space technology simpler and less expensive. Initially, our proposal to build a small satellite met with considerable doubt.  Today, however, we are using this technology to close a market gap. What we did was to build a radar satellite system with the greatest possible resolution within the planned scheduled and budget. Technologically, this radar system figures amongst the world’s best. Today, we are a crucial supplier of components for the European Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS) and the Automotive Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

Looking forward, we will be demonstrating that small yet powerful satellites can supply superb data quality from a geostationary orbit. We are building efficient satellites for the European navigation system. To this end, we are working on models and technologies for even more effective exploration of the earth and its properties and for monitoring the weather and the extent of natural catastrophes.

We also have a vision of flying to the moon, which we see as a stepping stone for manned flights to Mars. We are entering new dimensions and, to this very day, use our imagination to generate the technology for advancing space travel and humanity as a whole.

We want to seize the opportunities which space travel offers us for observing the earth in security-relevant scenarios. Satellite-based reconnaissance provides political and business decision-makers with crucial information on crisis and war regions without compromising sovereign rights or potentially escalating given situations. The early detection of potential risks from space makes it possible to forge appropriate diplomatic solutions to solve festering conflicts in good time. OHB’s reconnaissance and security programs are supplemented by aerial reconnaissance and broadband data transmission technology.

We owe our leading position in the global market less to vision than to decades of hard work. With its extensive high-tech experience, OHB is a sought-after partner for leading enterprises in the national and European space technology industry, the European Space Agency ESA, the German Aerospace Center DLR as well as for public and private-enterprise customers.

OHB-System’s Key Skills

Mechanics / Structure

In the mechanical structure of a satellite, a distinction is made between the primary structure to which all satellite components are fixed, secondary structures, e.g. for the precise positioning of certain devices (reaction wheels, sensors, antennas) and movable mechanisms used for unfolding antennas, solar generators etc. or to ensure that they are able to track the sun.

OHB develops various processes and technologies for meeting the various requirements in this area:

  • Computer-aided simulation of the load conditions within the primary structure during the launch phase to verify compliance with rigidity, strength and stability requirements for the load-bearing satellite cell. Utilization of specific software packages: NASTRAN, HyperMesh, Optistruct, LS-Dyna.
  • This is used as a basis for the selection of materials and the dimensioning of structural components using modern CAD software packages such as Unigraphics NX or CATIA.
  • Utilization of differential paneling, integral, carbon and aluminum sandwich structures.
  • Simulation of thermal/mechanic distortion as a result of changing temperature fields in orbit and definition of measures to limit these effects.
  • Development of new structural materials and systems with a high rigidity-to-weight ratio to optimize the satellite mass.

Analysis of micro-vibrations and their effect on the precise alignment of the satellite. Micro-vibrations may be caused by reaction wheels or the inherent vibration of the solar panels.

Optical Competence

Besides its extensive capabilities in the development of spacecraft missions and platforms, a second core capability of OHB System is the development of optical payloads.
Past and ongoing developments at OHB System AG, Munich site (formerly Kayser-Threde), cover the entire electromagnetic spectrum from X-ray to long wave infrared – and each of these systems has represented a challenge to the status quo and a realization of previously unavailable performance capabilities.

Some of the most prominent examples of OHB System’s experience include:

Current Developments

  • Meteosat Third Generation – Infrared Sounder: First-of a kind instrument to measure, among others, the three-dimensional movement of water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere‎.
  • Development of this large European spectrometer is lead by prime contractor OHB System.
  • Meteosat Third Generation – Flexible Combined Imager: Providing high resolution imagery of the Earth for improved weather forecasts. OHB System responsible for overall telescope assembly.
  • EnMAP: Hyperspectral instrument covering an impressive spectral range from 420 nm to ‎‎2450 ‎nm‎ in more than 200 individual ‎channels with a high ground resolution.‎ Both instrument and spacecraft are developed by OHB System.
  • MERLIN: French-German mission for space-based measurement of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere. OHB System is responsible for key optical elements.
  • EUCLID: Investigation of geometry and nature of the universe. OHB System is responsible for the near-infrared spectrometer and photometer optical assembly.
  • MERTIS: Imaging spectrometer for the analysis of Mercury on ESA’s Bepi Colombo mission. OHB System is industrial prime contractor for the telescope assembly.
  • PLATO: Recently selected ESA mission to search for exoplanets. OHB System works closely together with the leading scientists and manages the development of the instrument.

Past Developments

  • Herschel PACS: Cryogenic far-infrared instrument for the European Herschel mission, operating at ‑269 °C. Developed by prime contractor OHB System.
  • ORFEUS: Free-flying ultraviolet observatory, deployed and retrieved by Space Shuttle.
  • HB System AG responsible for development and realization of the main telescope
  • XMM mirror modules: Highly challenging X-ray mirrors designed, manufactured and qualified by OHB System.
  • ANITA: Instrument for interferometric analysis of the air quality on the ISS, developed by OHB System.

Terrestrial Developments

  • SOFIA: Infrared telescope performing astronomy missions aboard a specially mod modified Boeing 747 aircraft. Primary mirror assembly developed by OHB System.
  • Sunrise: This balloon-borne telescope performs high-resolution ‎observations of the sun’s atmosphere‎. OHB System developed the primary mirror assembly for this instrument.
  • JET Endoscope: Structural health monitoring of the Joint European Torus fusion reactor’s divertor, developed by OHB System as industrial prime contractor.
  • Wendelstein telescope: Ground-based 2 m class observatory on mount Wendelstein near Munich, Germany. Developed and realized by prime contractor OHB System.

Thermal Control

The thermal control system fitted to satellites is responsible for managing the operating temperatures of all components during the satellite’s life span. The extreme conditions in space pose a particular challenge in this respect. On the one hand, the ambient temperature in which a satellite operates may drop to absolute zero, while, on the other, temperatures may climb to extremes if it is exposed directly to the sun.

OHB develops various processes and technologies to address these problems:

  • Computer-aided simulation of internal and external heat flows in the satellite during its intended orbit in space Use of the specialized software packages ESARAD and ESATAN.
  • Definition on this basis of the necessary thermal control activities such as suitable thermal surface coating, design and positioning of insulation, heating system, active fluid-based cooling
  • Development of dual-phase cooling circuits conducting heat through the vaporization and condensation of a fluid. For this purpose, heat pipe/loop heat pipes as well as mechanical pump systems are used
  • Development of new materials with high thermal conducting properties and low thermal expansion
  • Methods for integrating metallic thermal components in fiber-reinforced plastics (to allow for differences in thermal expansion)

Particular thermal requirements must especially be considered for exploration missions to the moon and Mars. Aspects which must be taken into account include the wide temperature differences between the sunny and dark side of some planets, the existence of a residual atmosphere (Mars 10 mbar CO2) and the reduced ability of solar cells to generate electricity. OHB is working on the following developments, among others:

  • Thermal switch to deactivate the transfer of heat from the space vehicle in low-temperature ambient conditions
  • Light powder-based insulation optimized for use in the residual atmosphere of planets
  • Dual-phase mechanical pump systems for cooling circuits with long-life electric pumps
  • Thermal generators to produce electricity from temperature differences in sun-remote applications


OHB System expertise covers technological areas which are primarily required for future satellites. It also engages in new technologies and innovative applications of relevance for future missions.
Examples of technology areas worked on in OHB System are:

  • Additive manufacturing more commonly known as 3D printing, enabling OHB to radically cut cost and lead time
  • Optical instrument technologies for exploring the universe and earth, enabling the design and build of cutting edge optical instruments
  • Improvement and standardization of software development processes, enabling a radical reduce the redesign cost for future missions
  • Improvements to our Avionics Systems by implementing increase autonomy and a smart distributed Avionics architecture
  • Modelling, testing and mitigation of Micro-vibrations, enabling the high precision optical missions OHB is working on
  • Robotic technologies as a key element of unmanned missions across the solar system, on-orbit servicing and the disposal of decommissioned satellites
  • Partake in development of European Ground Systems Common Core (EGS-CC) to develop a common infrastructure to support space systems monitoring and control in pre- and post-launch phases of all mission types
  • Optimize AIT processes using an island integration concept and supporting tool
  • Cleaning up the earth orbits and minimizing casualty risk upon re-entry by performing a leading role in ESA Clean Space initiative
  • Life science and human spaceflight technologies
  • Frequency comb building and testing for various scientific missions and future optical clocks
  • New design process of missions and hardware using an in-house Concurrent Engineering Facility (CEF) and Makerspace
  • Quantum Key Distribution network satellite to ensure and guarantee future secure communication
  • Supporting the development of new Electric Propulsion Thrusters and model their impact on the satellite during operations
  • New developments in communication technologies, whether in RF or Optical, OHB System is involved in a wide range of developments to improve communication speed and reliability
  • Transfer of space technology for use in established products and services in industry.

We are always looking for opportunities to work together with industrial and academic partners for the development of new technologies. In case of interest in a cooperation feel free to contact us (technology@ohb.de).

Contact Details

OHB System AG
Universitätsallee 27-29
28359 Bremen

Phone: +49 (0) 421-2020-8
Fax: +49 (0) 421-2020-700
Email: info@ohb.de

OHB System AG
Manfred-Fuchs-Straße 1
82234 Weßling – Oberpfaffenhofen

Phone: +49 (0) 8153 4002-0
Fax: +49 (0) 8153 4002-940
Email: info.oberpfaffenhofen@ohb.de
Website: www.ohb-system.de