The history of the Airbus Defence and Space’s Center for RF Test Facilities and Maintenance has a long tradition and began with the undertakings of Dipl.-Ing. Dr. E. h. mult. Ludwig Bölkow, who passed away from us on July 25th, 2003.
Dr. Ludwig Bölkow was regarded as the father of the aviation. The MBB BO-105 helicopter, the car airbag but also the rocket-propelled grenade “Cobra” are tightly connected with his name. He impersonated innovation, inventor, entrepreneurship and pioneering spirit in one person and created the famous “Spirit of Ottbrunn”, which enabled the co-operation of the most creative heads and which motivated them to top-performance.
In 1958 the Bölkow Development Company moved from Stuttgart to Munich/Ottobrunn, which became the location of Germany’s most powerful and largest High-Tech Corporation, named Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH (MBB).
With the treaty signature between USA and Germany by US-President Johnson and Federal Chancellor of West Germany Ludwig Erhardt about the HELIOS satellite research program in 1966, the genesis for the MBB Space Systems Group was created.
Within MBB Space, antenna activities were started for the Helios ground station antennas by a system upgrade of the 100m radio telescope antenna located in Effelsberg/Germany and a high power upgrade for a 30m antenna in Weilheim/Germany in 1974.
The breakthrough for the space-borne antenna design and manufacturing occurred in the early 80’s with the satellite/antenna contract for the first German direct broadcasting satellites TV-SAT 1 / 2 and the French versions TDF-1 / 2, followed by the Ku-Band antennas and the S-Band TT&C antennas for the German communication satellites DFS 1 & 2 in 1987/88.
In 1985 a cylindrical antenna near-field test facility was commissioned, followed by a crosspolar Compensated Compact Range (CCR) in 1989. Both facilities were in-house developments, since due to the required high level of measurement accuracy for spacecraft antennas no of-the-shelf product could satisfy these requirements.
With 16 delivered high-end antenna test facilities, over 30.000 hours of in-house antenna measurements, more than 65 spacecraft antennas in orbit and more than 17 delivered large tracking satellite ground station antennas world-wide, the Antenna Test Center turned into a main pillar for the Airbus Defence and Space business in Munich/Ottobrunn.
RF-Facilities from Airbus Defence and Space are famous for their headstart in innovation and although many organizational changes occurred due massive restructuring of the national and European space industry, one thing remained unchanged - the “Spirit of Ottobrunn”, ensuring leading edge antenna measurement technologies.