Space

Telesat completes finance required for Lightspeed constellation

Telesat

Telesat anticipates finalizing the finance required for its Lightspeed broadband constellation in the next couple of months. In addition to this, there are contracts to launch a fleet of about 300 satellites.

Telesat selects the Thales Alenia Space Feb. 9 as the prime contractor in order to build the constellation of low Earth orbit satellites. The contract that includes network management software along with the integration of the satellites with gateways is worth $3 billion. Meanwhile, Telesat estimates the total system cost at $5 billion.

Dan Goldberg is the president and chief executive of Telesat. On 6th April, during a session of the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum he confirms the $5 billion total cost for Lightspeed. According to Dan, “The financing of the system is a mix of debt and equity, 60:40 ratio, respectively. Also, the journey to complete the finances is almost there and I expect that it will be done in a couple of months.”

A similar time frame is offered by the president to finalize plans to launch the constellation. The company poses a contract with Blue Origin 2 years ago for an undetermined number of New Glenn launches. It also has an agreement with Relativity Space for launches on its Terran 1 small launch vehicle in order to place in orbit specific satellites to fill gaps in the system.

While Telesat seeks to start Lightspeed launches in 2022, on the other side New Glenn does not yet schedule to make its debut until Q1 of 2022. Because of this, Telesat is likely to join hands with other companies. Mr. Goldberg said, “At present, we are well engaged with various other launch providers and I think that in the coming months we assure some announcements.”

Telesat is one of the most aggressive to pursue an LEO constellation, among the several major providers of geostationary communications satellites. While SES has its won O3b system of satellites in the middle Earth orbit. Telesat’s Lightspeed is far bigger, and it competes directly with new players like SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

Telesat focuses on many markets Lightspeed which include a list as follows:

  • Backhaul services for mobile network operators and internet service providers
  • Aeronautical and maritime connectivity
  • Government consumers

Dan Goldberg added, “There is huge growth potential only if the right value proposition deliveries reach the market. These verticals are mostly interested in huge, quick, and affordable options. In our opinion, it is vital that we have the services low latency.” A drive for Telesat to an LEO constellation includes the above requirements along with a desire “ubiquitous” connectivity in the polar regions.

From the QnA session at the forum, the following is the most insightful answering multiple questions by Dan Goldberg:

Question – Does Telesat pursue an LEO system out of fear of being less relevant if it continues solely as a GEO operator?

Answer – This is something that is the need of the hour and of utmost importance which has to be done. The decision is based on the analysis of the growth of the broadband services market. In addition also how best we can serve it. However, for us, you unavoidably land at LEO.

From the above, it is clear that Dan Goldberg sees future growth that comes from the broadband services that are provided by LEO. He believes that LEO has the ability to become the predominant architecture. Having said that, he knows that it is not possible overnight. Telesat is ready for transitions which often take longer than expected.

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