August 17 2023  |  Connectivity & Satellites

MDA selected for Telesat LEO program

By Alex Preston


Satellite launches for Telesat's LEO constellation are set to begin in mid-2026

Telesat has selected MDA Ltd for its Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit (LEO) program. The space technology company will build 198 advanced satellites for the program.

The re-designed Telesat Lightspeed network will utilize key technology advances, including MDA’s digital beamforming array antennas and integrated regenerative processor to achieve increased network efficiency and enhanced flexibility to focus and dynamically deliver capacity to users. These technological advances allow each satellite to be slightly smaller than the satellites Telesat was previously considering while still maintaining the highest levels of service performance, resiliency and overall usable capacity in the network.

The satellites are also highly cost-effective, resulting in an anticipated total capital cost savings for the program of approximately US$2 billion compared to Telesat’s prior capital estimate.

With the signing of this contract, the Telesat Lightspeed program begins immediately, with satellite launches scheduled to commence in mid-2026 and polar and global services scheduled to begin in late 2027.

“I’m incredibly proud of the Telesat team for their innovative work to further optimize our Telesat Lightspeed design — which was already a highly advanced and high-performing LEO network — resulting in dramatically reduced costs with unmatched enterprise-class service offerings,” stated Dan Goldberg, President and CEO of Telesat in an August 11 statement.

“True to our values, MDA has been committed to being a trusted Telesat Lightspeed mission partner since the beginning, and our proven performance as a LEO constellation satellite prime contractor will now be leveraged to take the constellation forward,” said Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA. “We believe in Telesat’s mission and vision and are excited that our software-defined digital satellite product will be a key enabler in meeting their goals as we work together to usher in the next generation of space-based satellite communications.”

Telesat also announced that Telesat Lightspeed is now fully funded through global service delivery taking into account the company’s own equity contribution, certain vendor financing, and aggregate funding commitments from its Canadian federal and provincial government partners. The finalization of this funding is dependent on a number of conditions, including completion of confirmatory due diligence and the conclusion of definitive agreements.

This funding, combined with Telesat’s own approximately US$1.6 billion equity contribution, as well as certain vendor financing, would provide the Telesat Lightspeed program with sufficient funds to launch global service, which will occur once the first 156 satellites are in orbit. Telesat will continue adding satellites that are funded using Telesat Lightspeed cash flow to complete the initial 198 satellite constellation. In addition to the approximately US$2 billion in anticipated capital savings, Telesat also expects substantial savings due to significantly reduced financing costs relative to the company’s prior plan.

The capital investment for the Telesat Lightspeed program is approximately US$3.5 billion and includes 198 Telesat Lightspeed satellites, satellite launch vehicles, a global ground network of landing stations and operations centers, business and operations support systems, and expenditures to support the further development of a portfolio of user terminals for Telesat’s target markets.

Telesat Lightspeed is the largest space program ever conceived in Canada and will be among the most innovative, cutting-edge broadband satellite networks in the world. MDA will manufacture the Telesat Lightspeed satellites in its state-of-the-art satellite systems design and high-volume manufacturing facilities in Quebec.

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