Canada’s Telesat has announced a partnership with SpaceX to launch its low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, called Lightspeed, beginning in 2026. The aim of this collaboration is to provide global broadband service from space by late 2027.
LEO satellites operate much closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in faster transmission of information and improved broadband service even in remote areas. Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg expressed his excitement, stating, “It is another big step forward on our path to get Lightspeed up there.”
Telesat selected SpaceX due to its combination of competitive price, performance, reliability, and scheduling. While the value of the contract remains undisclosed, it includes 14 launches. Each Falcon 9 rocket will carry up to 18 satellites into orbit, enabling the deployment of the constellation by the end of 2027, slightly later than the original plan.
Telesat previously awarded the contract for building its 198 satellites to Canada’s MDA Ltd, resulting in a cost-saving of $2 billion. Initially, Thales Alenia Space had been granted the contract, but due to COVID-related supply chain issues and inflation, they could no longer meet the agreed price and schedule.
Telesat’s agreement with SpaceX for the 14 launches allows for the potential expansion of the constellation beyond the initially committed 198 satellites. With this move, Telesat aims to cater to enterprise customers such as mobile operators, governments, aircraft, and shipping companies, diversifying from the consumer-focused LEO competition, including SpaceX’s Starlink constellation and Blue Origin’s Project Kuiper.
Satellite constellations have significantly increased demand for U.S. launch services, with Telesat’s contract with SpaceX being one of the many large bulk launch orders. Amazon’s Kuiper network, for instance, secured the biggest commercial launch deal in history in 2022, with 83 missions across multiple launch companies. SpaceX also plans to increase its annual launch rate in 2023 with the expansion of its Starlink constellation.