How can it be that the POT – through a contract – chooses you to develop his satellite constellation ground system for monitoring and transmission of data and it gives you pleasure, but at the same time it seems so normal to you? GMV is far from a company that lacks self-respect on the part of its workers and managers, but when news broke that it had been chosen by General Dynamics to improve NASA’s ground control network earlier this year, the atmosphere at the various sites turned sour the group bordered on euphoria. “With this and other previous successes,” he says Jesus SeranoCEO of GMV We have grown into a leader in the aerospace industry“.

It’s not a lantern. Many of the candidates for the NASA contract were already veterans in the space industry before GMV even existed. However, the NASA contractor’s choice of the GMV was not arbitrary or accidental. She won because she is the best: In just over two decades of its existence, the Madrid-based company has established itself as a leader in this important market niche of the industry, the ground control centers for telecommunications satellites, which knocked off the pedestal none other than the North American Integral Systems, a successful Nasdaq-listed company that has doubled its stock market value in the last year.

The most amazing thing about the history of GMV is that it started from the bottom, almost from scratch. “It was founded in 1985 – explains Serrano – by Juan José Martínez García, professor at the Madrid School of Aeronautical Engineering, with just two engineers, after returning from Europe where he had worked at ESA (European Space Agency). The opportunity that the late Martínez (he was succeeded by his daughter Mónica Martínez Walker) spotted was access to ESA contracts as part of Spain’s contributions to the agency.

160 satellites in orbit

Now it’s a multinational, but it started out as an SME, the SME Isaac Newton would have liked to work for… if he had survived three centuries. Created with only 3,000 euros provided by the CDTI, the company is already billing 101 million euros. The three “workers” of 1985 (300 in 1999) are already almost 1,100, 85% college graduates and 16 nationalities, working in the company’s 11 production centers in Spain and 24 other countries.

More importantly, GMV is the only Spanish company to appear in the prestigious ranking of Space News magazine the top 50 companies in the industry worldwide. More than 160 satellites in orbit –mainly telecommunications– in 25 countries around the world They are managed from the ground through control centers using the technology of this company from Tres Cantos, a commuter town of Madrid where many companies are dedicated to cutting-edge technology. “47% of the satellite launches planned for 2011 will be controlled with our systems‘ assures Serrano. Eight of the world’s ten largest commercial satellite operators are GMV customers, including Eutelsat, the European leader in this sector.

GMV doesn’t deny that the big problem the company has faced for years, despite its valuable technology and knowledge, is convincing customers of its ability to execute complex missions and contracts. This has forced them to approach the market with a certain humility. “We try to start with small contracts and then, once the client is confident in our effectiveness, move on to more complex assignments,” Serrano continues.

So it started with small orders for the ESA, “with such good results that they gave us a very positive rating in a short time,” he says. Only four years after the first orders GMV has been declared a Center of Excellence in Orbital Mechanics by ESA, an award that gave way to a further development of his work for the European Agency. “So we were able to get into manned flight programs, satellite navigation or control systems at the end of the 1980s.” He would later take part in projects as important as Galileo, where, as the executive clarifies, “we are responsible for the heart of one of the three systems that make it up, ground control”.

The next step, after its consolidation in ESA and other public space agencies around the world, was to enter the commercial satellite market, essentially telecommunications (for television) operated by companies like astra, Hispasat either Eutelsat. Quite a challenge for them as it required higher funding from the company and in which only GMV could participate because, as Serrano explains, “it required having previously started public programs in which we have gained experience”.

The first commercial contracts were also small. “The first was a EUR 50,000 study on flight dynamics operations at Eutelsat in France, the largest international operator,” Serrano recalls.

So despite the euphoria triggered by victory in the US competition for modernization TDRS (NASA ground system of constellation of satellites for monitoring and transmission of data), a four-year contract, the truth is that it wasn’t too surprising either. “They chose us because our system was the most flexible and also the cheapest‘ assures Serrano. Two years earlier, in 2009, GMV had already won another contract with the POTthis within the framework of the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter), a mission to the moon which included the planning system (the brain on land) of the Spanish company.

It goes without saying that the Spanish company uses the same step-by-step method in the US that got it such good results at ESA. After establishing its subsidiary in that country in 2005 in Rockville, Maryland, near Washington, managed and owned primarily by Americans, it took GMV 18 months to land its first order, a $250,000 contract for World Space, a satellite radio company. This year, the US market will already account for 12% of the group’s revenues.

Another pillar of growth was the decision, made in the mid-1990s, to use its technological prowess to enter other sectors –transport, telecommunications either ICT–.

Switch to other activities

“We realized that we have our own technologies and know-how that we can successfully apply to other activities,” explains the company’s CEO.

One of them the Management of transport fleets via satellitea service currently growing faster than the Espacio area, and in which GMV has won management contracts for hundreds of buses in cities such as Budapest and Putrajaya (Malaysia).

Another business is on the rise ATM Computer Security. More than 50,000 ATMs worldwide are protected against computer attacks with GMV products.

Serrano believes this is all just the beginning. The strong focus on R&D (they invest 10% of the revenue) and the company’s purchasing policy “will open more doors for us in the years to come…”.