Officials announced on Monday that SpaceX will launch 14 Falcon 9 rockets beginning in 2026 to deploy satellites for Telesat’s Lightspeed network. Telesat, a Canadian company, has been in the communications satellite business since 1969 and has previously operated large satellites in geostationary orbit. However, in 2016, Telesat announced plans to deploy a fleet of low-Earth orbit satellites to provide low-latency, high-speed internet globally.
After facing delays and setbacks, Telesat switched satellite manufacturers from Thales Alenia Space to Canada-based MDA earlier this year. Now, Telesat has selected SpaceX to launch the Lightspeed satellites on 14 Falcon 9 rockets from launch sites in Florida and California. Each Falcon 9 mission will carry up to 18 Lightspeed satellites, according to Telesat. This announcement marks a change in direction for Telesat, as it previously had launch contracts with Blue Origin and Relativity Space.
The 14 missions will be sufficient to launch Telesat’s first batch of 198 Lightspeed satellites. Telesat anticipates that the launches will enable global service, which requires 156 satellites in orbit, to begin in 2027.
Telesat chose SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket due to its reliability and reusability. SpaceX has a proven track record with over 230 consecutive successful missions. The high launch cadence of Falcon 9 will allow Telesat to rapidly deploy the Lightspeed satellites in a mix of polar and mid-inclination orbits.
Unlike SpaceX’s consumer-focused Starlink constellation, the Lightspeed network will target enterprise customers, such as mobile telco operators, government customers, schools, medical services, and military forces.
It is worth noting that Amazon’s Project Kuiper network, a competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink, will launch its first test satellites later this year. The lawsuit filed by Amazon shareholders alleges that in purchasing launches for Kuiper, Amazon failed to consider SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the more cost-effective and readily available option.
Telesat’s decision to go with SpaceX is based on previous successful collaborations for launching company’s geostationary communications satellites.