Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space acquires Surrey Satellite Technology Limited

Stevenage and Guildford, 13 January 2009 - Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading space company, has acquired Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), the innovative University of Surrey spin-out company which specialises in the design and manufacture of small satellites and subsystems. This acquisition follows approval by the European Commission in December 2008 and was announced by EADS CEO Louis Gallois today at his January briefing for the media.

  • Airbus Defence and Space acquires world leader in small satellites Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL)
  • Acquisition completed following EC approval
  • SSTL will remain an independent company with its own brand identity


“This is great news that we have acquired SSTL.  The UK space industry is in a strong position at present – at Airbus Defence and Space we have a healthy order book and we are recruiting engineers, scientists and technicians to build telecommunication, Earth observation, navigation and scientific satellites. Acquiring SSTL means we will have a substantial complement to what we can offer customers around the world – SSTL has expertise in small satellites and an innovative approach to developing new markets for space.” said Colin Paynter, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space in the UK.  

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of SSTL, said: “This acquisition is essential for SSTL, both in enabling our future plans and maintaining the ability to expand our R&D investment in competitive new technologies. Being part of Europe’s leading space company will considerably strengthen SSTL’s market position.”

SSTL joins Airbus Defence and Space following a decision by the University of Surrey to sell its majority stake of 85% in the small satellite manufacturer. SSTL will remain an independent UK company with its individual brand and unique approach to space, whilst benefiting from access to greater resources to support the company’s growth. Airbus Defence and Space will benefit from enhanced links with the University of Surrey to support staff training and development, also leading to greater cooperation and increased research on space technology and systems.

SSTL has built its worldwide reputation in small satellites through the development of innovative technologies which have lowered the cost of operational space missions with real world applications, such as GIOVE-A, providing in-orbit validation for the Galileo programme, and the RapidEye and DMC constellations providing commercial Earth observation services. The company has recently added a small geostationary platform to their product range as well as very high resolution imaging systems for small satellite applications.

Airbus Defence and Space is one of the world’s leaders for its expertise in space transportation, spacecraft and satellite services including prime contractor for Ariane 5, the Columbus space laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicle for the International Space Station, and its leading-edge large and complex geostationary telecommunications satellites, and the Skynet 5 secure communications system for the UK Ministry of Defence. SSTL will complement Airbus Defence and Space’s existing space capabilities that include space transportation, satellites and services.

Under the share purchase agreement, SSTL will be owned by Airbus Defence and Space NV in the Netherlands.

The acquisition will enhance long-term research collaboration between the University of Surrey and Airbus Defence and Space and will further advance the University’s cutting edge space research capacity. The sale will support the already-strong presence that Guildford and the south-east have in the aeronautical and space industries, creating a centre of expertise for space technology.  This will allow for the region to benefit from the Government’s commitment to invest in the UK space industry.

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.5 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, and Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services. In the UK, Airbus Defence and Space employs more than 3,000 space engineers, scientists and technicians.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services.  In 2007, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116,000.

About SSTL

SSTL develops innovative technologies to change the economics of space, delivering cost effective satellite missions within rapid timescales. The company is a world leader in the design, manufacture and operation of high performance small satellites with experience gained over more than 25 years and 32 missions launched.

SSTL employs 300 staff working on LEO, MEO, GEO and interplanetary missions, turnkey satellite platforms and space-proven satellite subsystems and optical systems.  The company also provides training and development programmes and consultancy services, and performs studies for ESA, NASA and commercial customers related to platform design, mission analysis and planning.


Airbus Defence and Space Media Contacts:  

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK)              Phone:  +44 (0)1 438 77 3872 

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)     Phone:  +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32 

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space GER)            Phone:  + 49 (0) 7545 89123

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)         Phone: + 34 91 586 37 41