Telesat Signs Agreement with SpaceX to Launch Lightspeed Satellite Constellation

Canada’s Telesat has announced a partnership with SpaceX to launch its low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation called Lightspeed. The launch is scheduled to begin in 2026, with the goal of providing global broadband service from space by late 2027.

LEO satellites operate much closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in faster transmission and reception of information. This enables better and faster broadband service, even in remote areas. Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating that it is a significant step forward in their path to deploy the Lightspeed constellation.

Telesat selected SpaceX due to its favorable combination of price, performance, reliability, and schedule tempo. The contract covers 14 launches, with each Falcon 9 rocket carrying up to 18 satellites into orbit. The company plans to have the complete constellation in place and provide global service by the end of 2027, which is three years later than originally anticipated.

Telesat recently awarded Canada’s MDA Ltd the contract to build the 198 satellites for the Lightspeed constellation, saving $2 billion. The decision came after Thales Alenia Space, who initially had the contract, informed Telesat that they could no longer meet the agreed price and schedule due to challenges caused by COVID, supply chain issues, and inflation.

The agreement with SpaceX allows for potential expansion of the Lightspeed constellation beyond the initially planned 198 satellites. Telesat aims to target enterprise customers such as mobile operators, governments, aircraft, and shipping companies in the LEO network market. While most of the LEO competition focuses on the consumer market, Telesat is entering this competitive space to cater to specific business needs.

Satellite constellations, including SpaceX’s Starlink and Blue Origin’s Project Kuiper, have significantly impacted the U.S. launch supply in recent years with large bulk launch orders. In 2022, Amazon secured the largest commercial launch deal ever for 83 missions across multiple launch companies to deploy its Kuiper network. SpaceX plans to increase its annual launch rate in 2023 with the expansion of its Starlink constellation.