Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
Telesat contracts SpaceX for 14 launches to deploy Lightspeed broadband constellation

Telesat, a Canadian satellite operator, has announced a contract with SpaceX for 14 launches starting in mid-2026. This partnership will allow Telesat to deploy its entire Lightspeed broadband constellation within a year. Each Falcon 9 rocket used in the launches will be capable of carrying up to 18 low Earth orbit satellites, totaling 252 satellites. The number of satellites per launch will vary depending on the orbital plane.

Telesat recently ordered 198 satellites from MDA and secured funding for 156 of them. These satellites will provide initial multi-terabit polar and global services. To further enhance coverage and capacity, Telesat plans to finance an additional 42 satellites, estimated to cost around $800 million. Funding may come from early Lightspeed revenues or incremental sources before the commercial launch of LEO services in late 2027.

The Lightspeed constellation will be launched from SpaceX facilities in California and Florida. Telesat chose SpaceX due to its high launch cadence, which will help rapidly deploy the satellites following funding and production delays. Additionally, Telesat has agreements with Blue Origin and Relativity Space for future launches of LEO satellites that are still under development.

Telesat intends to work closely with Blue Origin, expecting them to become a valued launch provider. However, for the initial constellation deployment, Telesat plans to utilize Relativity Space’s 3D printing capabilities for single satellite launches, either for replacement or to add to the constellation.

After facing supply chain issues and delays, Telesat switched to MDA for satellite production. Telesat’s CEO, Dan Goldberg, mentioned that MDA is expected to begin producing one satellite a day for the Lightspeed constellation by next year. The company is also looking to procure 800 optical terminals for the constellation, which is expected to be the largest order of optical terminals in history. Each Lightspeed satellite will have four optical terminals to facilitate secure and resilient broadband connectivity, primarily targeting enterprise and government customers.

The initial 156 Lightspeed satellites have a total cost of $3.5 billion, with Telesat providing $1.6 billion in equity funding. The remaining funding comes from Canadian federal and provincial financing commitments.