Airbus management shake-up spreads to space unit

PARIS (Reuters) - A management shake-up at Europe’s Airbus accelerated on Tuesday as Nicolas Chamussy was replaced as the head of Space Systems.

FILE PHOTO: A scale model of an Airbus OneWeb satellite and its solar panel are pictured as Airbus announces annual results in Blagnac, near Toulouse, France February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Airbus said the 51-year-old space engineer would have an unspecified future role, while his job as head of space activities including the company’s 50 percent share of the ArianeGroup rocket venture will be taken by Jean-Marc Nasr.

The move comes less than four months after Nasr, 57, was named head of Asia-Pacific, responsible for group strategy and industrial issues and regional sales for Airbus Defence & Space.

Chamussy is a former chief of staff to Tom Enders, who stepped down earlier this month to make way for planemaking chief Guillaume Faury, and has been facing mounting competition from a new breed of private U.S. and other space contractors.

Companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, LeoSat Enterprises, and Canada’s Telesat are working to enable data networks with hundreds or even thousands of tiny satellites that orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, a radical shift made possible by leaps in laser technology and computer chips.

Faury, 51, has implemented a tighter structure designed to simplify Europe’s largest aerospace group, while sidelining a number of executives previously close to Enders or former planemaking boss Fabrice Bregier, according to company watchers.

La Tribune, which first reported the changeover at space systems, said the reorganization could lead to other departures, accelerating a sweeping management overhaul already driven partly by an ongoing corruption probe and scheduled retirements.

An Airbus spokesman said Chamussy would stay inside Airbus and declined further comment on management changes.

The Space Systems division makes up 27 percent of Airbus Defence & Space revenues, which grew 4.4 percent last year to 11.1 billion euros ($12.5 billion). Space spending is rising but established players face increase competition within the United States, China, Japan and India.

Airbus is seeking to shore up its position by prioritizing a fledgling market for constellations of tiny satellites designed to broaden internet access and support new services. It launched six mini-satellites in February, the first of at least 600 to be launched in the next two to three years together with partner OneWeb.

Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by Louise Heavens