Based in Brno, OHB Czechspace is currently on the way to becoming a leading space company in the Czech Republic. The company’s satellite mission SOVA was recently awarded by the European Space Agency (ESA). "Our plan is to bring SOVA into space by 2027," reveal Managing Director Ariane Wyen and Head of Business Development Dr. Ondřej Krepl.
OHB Czechspace just celebrated its 4th year anniversary in October 2022. How has the company developed in recent years?
Wyen: OHB Czechspace has experienced an impressive growth within the last four years. The company’s revenues and number of employees have increased each year. Today, we have nearly 30 employees. The vast majority of our employees are Czech, yet we are counting more than seven different nationalities. One third of our staff are women.
In 2018, we started with the provision of structural analysis services. Today, I look at an established organization with business development, project management, engineering and product assurance departments. We are able to demonstrate extensive experience in the design, analysis, assembly and tests of structural hardware for satellites and launchers.
By 2026 we plan to offer our own self-developed products on the international space market.
What has been the greatest achievement of OHB Czechspace?
Wyen: Personally, I am very proud that OHB Czechspace can already show what is known as ‘flight heritage’. We contributed to the development of the GMS-T communication satellite, which was commissioned by a private customer requiring the application of new-space engineering philosophies and was launched in January 2021 by Rocket Lab.
What will the future bring?
Wyen: We have built a strong foundation in the mechanical engineering sector. Now, our team is looking forward to new challenges. We recently opened the divisions of Research & Development and Satellite System Engineering within the company.
By 2026 we plan to offer our own self-developed products on the international space market. Furthermore, by 2023 we aim to become a satellite system integrator in the Czech Republic and launch the first satellite in 2027.
What do you mean by developing your own products?
Krepl: We are currently working to design and build Czech-made space products for the satellite and launch vehicle market. We carry out the entire development from the sketch on paper to the qualified flight hardware. We count on including Czech Partners and have the production completely done in the Czech Republic such that the entire value chain remains domestic. We will announce our concrete plans in 2023.
SOVA is the Czech scientific mission that will leave a positive impact on future global challenges, such as mitigating climate change by improved weather prediction.
How do you aim to become a Satellite System Integrator in the Czech Republic?
Krepl: The Czech National Space Plan aims for the Czech Republic to become a respected system integrator for satellites. This goal is supported by the initiation of the Ambitious Project by the Czech Republic in cooperation with ESA. The Ambitious Project supports a 12-months mission study in its first phase and then the detailed development and launch of the satellite in its final phase.
Wyen: OHB Czechspace has already been awarded by ESA with the SOVA project to conduct the first phase of the Ambitious Project. We are certain that we will successfully complete the study and will aim for the next phase to become the prime contractor and satellite system integrator. We invested nearly 200.000 Euro of our own financial means to ensure that we have an adequate budget to complete the comprehensive study in accordance with the requirements and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders, but also to train our staff in the new business field of satellite system engineering and build a strong knowledge base.
What is the SOVA mission about?
Krepl: SOVA is the Czech scientific mission that will leave a positive impact on future global challenges, such as mitigating climate change by improved weather prediction. The SOVA satellite will use a unique instrument to look into the Earth's atmosphere and study so-called gravity waves. These air movements propagate in the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere and influence the weather in the lowest layer.
OHB Czechspace leads the industrial and institutional consortium consisting of national and international partners and is in its role as the prime contractor for this study not just responsible for the design of the satellite, but also for the purchase of the launcher and its operation in space.
How important is it for OHB Czechspace to be a part of the OHB Group?
Wyen: The companies in the OHB Group cover most of the areas of expertise required to carry out space projects. Among those are the development, integration and test of satellites, provision of launch services, and satellite operations. We are grateful to be part of the OHB Group and to benefit from more than 40 years of space experience. At the same time it is important to us that we are a self-standing entity in the Czech Republic with our own identity and culture.