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Cablegate: Germany: Rapideye Ag Ready to Sell Unique

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDF RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
RUEHTM
DE RUEHRL #1537/01 3181622
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131622Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2626
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/USDAO BERLIN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 001537

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS
STATE FOR EUR/CE, EUR/ERA AND OES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TSPA EINV ETRD PGOV PREL PINR GM
SUBJECT: GERMANY: RAPIDEYE AG READY TO SELL UNIQUE
SATELLITE IMAGERY BY JANUARY 2009

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: By January 2009, German satellite imagery
provider RapidEye AG (RE) will likely begin commercial
delivery (without significant export restriction) of unique,
space-based imagery with potential reconnaissance
applications and capable of imaging any point on Earth daily.
Although primarily designed to image biomass, RapidEye's
multi-spectral-imagery (MSI) capabilities and high revisit
rate will serve expanded customer applications such as broad
area coverage (similar to USG LandSat program), land-use
change detection, and possibly even camouflage detection.
Still seeking a large commercial contract for agricultural
imagery and operating on a dwindling 160 million euro of seed
funding secured in 2004, the company's business model will
likely be adjusted to sell MSI to worldwide customers with a
variety of national security interests. END SUMMARY

IMAGING CAPABILITIES
--------------------
2. (SBU) RapidEye's system distinguishes itself from its
peers with its combination of a wide imaging spectrum, high
revisit rate, and considerable imaging volume. The system
images in five spectral bands including blue, green, red,
red-edge, and near infra-red. The red-edge spectral band is
a unique capability, which is important for RapidEye analysis
of crop health/ stress and gives the company first-mover
advantage in a niche market.

3. (SBU) Each satellite images a 77 kilometer (km)-wide
swath while orbiting the earth in a sun-synchronous orbit
(inclination angle 97.8 deg) 15 times per day. Because of
the orbital geometry and its swath width, RapidEye platforms
can image the entire globe in as little as five days
(assuming no cloud cover) or a large targeted land mass like
Germany in as little as four days. The system also has a
limited ability (18 degrees off nadir) to steer their
imaging, allowing them to image any point on the Earth on a
daily basis. Because RapidEye does not possess real-time
control of their satellites, targeting of a specific area for
imagery not already scheduled to be imaged would require up
to 24-hour prior notice for satellite tasking.

4. (SBU) RapidEye imagery has a horizontal resolution of 6.5
meters with a pixel size of 5 meters. At this resolution,
for example, buildings and large machinery would be
distinguishable, whereas automobiles might not. RapidEye
also has the ability to produce digital elevation models
(DEM). Company officials said that DEM capabilities are
currently being developed and predicted that their system
could populate up to 50 thousand square kilometers worth of
DEM data per day with a vertical resolution of around 19
meters.

FOREIGN INTEREST / EXPORT RESTRICTIONS
--------------------------------------
5. (SBU) In an October 15 meeting, RapidEye officials (in
the presence of CEO Wolfgang Biedermann) told EconOff that
they have received a considerable amount of interest from
foreign governments. Regarding this interest, Biedermann
helpfully clarified, "you know, for intelligence
applications." For the most part, the export of RapidEye
imagery is not restricted under German export law. The only
exceptions would be if the export destination was a listed
country, firm, or individual prohibited by the German Federal
Office for Export Control (BAFA), such as Iran. In export
cases where the end-user is not listed (but may be of export
concern due to the dual-use nature of satellite imagery),
Biedermann said his company would inquire with BAFA whether
or not export control laws apply.

EXPANDING THE BUSINESS MODEL - CAREFULLY
----------------------------------------
6. (SBU) Biedermann added that many potential foreign
customers have expressed interest only in raw imagery data,
rather than in purchasing their analytical products. While
Biedermann's clear preference is to focus the business model
on delivering analytic product, he has made the executive
decision to foster these business opportunities while
maintaining control of their data. Biedermann said,
"RapidEye understands the opportunity to just sell raw data,
but RapidEye does not distinguish between raw versus
processed data pricing wise."

7. (SBU) Biedermann also indicated that foreign governments
have expressed an interest in setting up ground stations for
direct download of RapidEye data. Biedermann rejected this
notion, saying that "we do not like this idea at all, it is
our data, and we want to control our archives." However, he

BERLIN 00001537 002 OF 002


left the door open and added, "However, this all depends on
our customer needs and anything is possible."

8. (SBU) Biedermann said that RapidEye is always interested
in expanding its product offerings and capabilities,
mentioning the possibility of partnering with space-based
radar data providers. (COMMENT: Space-based radar data could
potentially be used to fill imagery requirements when
environmental factors such as cloud cover would obstruct
RapidEye electro-optical imagery. Based on unclassified
notes from a NGA visit to RapidEye on September 8, RapidEye
already has a cooperation agreement with EADS Astrium
subsidiary Infoterra Ltd, which holds exclusive commercial
rights over TerraSAR-X space based radar data. END COMMENT.)

PROSPECTS
---------
9. (SBU) Although RapidEye is nearing full operational
status, they are running on fumes financially. Their 160
million euro 2004 financing is running out and they have
apparently not seen the demand they expected from the
agricultural industry - their primary business focus.
Biedermann complained about the difficulty of marketing their
product to the agricultural insurance industry and said they
are still looking for an economic hook to entice customers.
To further complicate this situation, the current financial
crisis may limit their future financing options, thereby
increasing the pressure to reach out to more liquid sources
of cash.

10. (SBU) RapidEye knows that their long-term viability is
dependent on their ability to establish themselves be a
provider of processed imagery and analytic product and not
simply as a raw data provider. Since RapidEye does not hold
intellectual property rights (IPR) on their satellite bus or
imaging technology, there is nothing stopping instant
competition from arising if another firm were to procure an
identical satellite constellation.

ABOUT RAPIDEYE
--------------
11. (SBU) Founded in 1998, RapidEye AG is a Brandenburg
based German start-up of approximately 90 employees. Their
primary business model is to provide imagery and value-added
analysis of large areas of biomass for insurance companies
and agricultural commodity futures traders. To accomplish
this task, RapidEye procured five 380 kg micro-satellites
from the UK based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and
multi-spectral space cameras from the German firm
Jena-Optronic GmbH. On August 29, 2008 RapidEye successfully
launched this constellation onboard a Dnepr rocket from the
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Through a contract set up
with Kongsberg Satellite Services AS, all RapidEye imagery is
downloaded to an X-band antenna located in Svalbard, Norway.
From their Brandenburg headquarters, they task the satellites
via S-Band radio, receive the Svalbard downloaded imagery via
a fiber-optic line, and produce their imagery products and
analysis for export. In total, RapidEye's costs to date are
approximately 160 million euro for the entire package
including; the satellites, sensors, launch, facilities costs,
and employees. On October 21, RapidEye released their first
public imagery, showcasing the capabilities of the RapidEye
constellation. According to company officials, they expect
to deliver their first commercial imagery by January 2009.
TIMKEN JR

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