Evert Dudok CEO, EADS Astrium Satellites
Despite a tough economic climate, Astrium Satellites CEO Evert Dudok believes there are enough potential orders in the market to feel comfortable about the company’s prospects throughout the next 12 months.
Dudok discusses the potential for new orders Astrium Satellites and his view of the commercial and military marketplace in the coming years.
VIA SATELLITE: When will the satellite manufacturing sector see a full recovery from any economic slowdown?
Dudok: The orders we see in 2010 are maybe a little bit slow, but there are still quite big initiatives going on right now. We see someone like SES ordering up to four satellites. There maybe a new S-band opportunity upcoming. There maybe a new Ka-band opportunity upcoming. There is potentially a new military opportunity upcoming and all of that makes us feel comfortable, even in 2010, that we will reach our average in terms of satellite contracts to win. In good years, we can gain up to six orders. In a slower year, we can maybe expect down to two orders. But I don’t see any major problems.
VIA SATELLITE: What about the procurements for 2010?
Dudok: We see some big single satellite procurements for next year. The euro-dollar rates are impacting our opportunities. It makes things more difficult for us in the export market. We will have to look at other innovative opportunities. We tackle those opportunities one by one. Prices driven by dollars are difficult.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you overcome those currency issues?
Dudok: We have some sweet spots on our satellites. The bigger the payload, the better it is for us. There are certain technologies where we have I think a unique position. For example, the digital processor on board the payloads. We are looking for opportunities where our capabilities, such as flexible Ka-band payloads, match the needs of customers.
VIA SATELLITE: Do you believe the economic downturn will lead to fewer choices in the satellite sector?
Dudok: There are still some inherently weak operators financially in the market. There maybe changes there, but you cannot exclude further casualties. You look at the MSS market, there could be changes there. I am not sure how both Iridium and Globalstar will develop. It is a difficult situation for all. However, it is a bit like predicting how we will get out of the financial crisis and the availability of financing. It is difficult to assess. It will depend on how the overall economy will develop. We will just have to wait and see.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you seeing any different trends in orders for telecommunications satellites?
Dudok: There is a lot of quite standard Ku-/C-band satellites being acquired. That is our bread-and-butter business but clearly, we are seeing more Ka-band and multimedia satellite requests. We are building the Ka-Sat satellite for Eutelsat and the Hylas satellite for Avanti Communications. We think we are very competitive in this field, and we feel as though there are more opportunities coming in this direction. There are also some opportunities in the mobile field. We are building Alphasat for Inmarsat. We have the Inmarsat fleet working well. We have potential new opportunities in Mexico. So there are new opportunities even in that market which is a niche market.
VIA SATELLITE: What is the status of Hylas and Ka-Sat?
Dudok: On the Hylas satellite, there have been some challenges. It is a very innovative satellite payload. We have tackled all of those challenges and the launch date is confirmed for the middle of next year. In terms of Ka-Sat, things are progressing on schedule.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you expecting an upsurge of Ka-band satellite orders?
Dudok: I think the multimedia market is developing very quickly. There are many political initiatives to basically ensure Internet coverage over all the countries in Europe. Satellite can help meet those needs. I feel that this is a real starting point for Europe, and the need for Ka-band satellites will be growing rapidly in the future.
VIA SATELLITE: How important is it for the satellite industry to capture a share of government stimulus funding for efforts such as broadband expansion?
Dudok: The recognition of space being an enabler for some innovative applications and that can help areas such as the education of people is crucial. There are a lot of economic relevant subjects such as competitiveness, logistics, etc. The recognition that space is a very important element to enable certain applications from the ground and change the world is a very important thing for us to have. I hope that in the stimulus packages, many of the countries will vote for the longer term investments that will change the basic economics. I will give you an example. If you go to do roadworks or your country, it has a direct impact, but if you go into logistics, it is a much longer lasting investment. So we want this recognition to look at space in providing long-term answers.
VIA SATELLITE: Do you expect European governments will rein in their spending in terms of next generation military space systems?
Dudok: There have been many investments. For example, you have the Skynet program in the United Kingdom. In Germany and France, both countries have acquired their own systems and capabilities. There are still a number of independent initiatives. There are a lot of independent infrastructures, however, Europe is looking at maybe combining some of those assets. In areas such as Earth observation and radar optical data, countries are looking for ways in which to share that data. Maybe the next step is for telecoms infrastructure to be shared, but that is more of a long-term development.
VIA SATELLITE: What trends do you see in terms of satellite capability?
Dudok: Orbital slots are now somewhat limited, so there will be an important need to bring as much capacity as possible in those slots. Where countries want to have an independent information or communications source, a small satellite can be vital in areas such as Earth observation. This could be a direction to go. Also, you have the idea of hosted payloads. I think this is a market that will be growing. I think there will be opportunities in terms of fixed satellites but also in terms of small satellite for countries wanting independent capability.
VIA SATELLITE: Do you think we will see more hosted payload activity in Europe?
Dudok: We don’t know yet, but given the high level of investment needed for a satellite, launch services, the rationale for sharing costs and combining assets maybe a great opportunity. That is an attractive idea. It definitely seems to be a growing market.
VIA SATELLITE: What would represent a good 12 months for Astrium Satellites?
Dudok: On the telecoms side, we would acquire at least four satellites this year. The major decisions for us are in the field public and institutional procurements. You have Galileo with 28 satellites. You have the 1.6 billion euro ($2.4 billion) Meteosat project. Galileo and Meteosat are very important and substantial decisions. In France, we have the Helios system and the CSO system, which is the follow-up Earth observation system. This will be very important for us. These opportunities come once every three-to-four years. This will be differentiating factor for us next year.