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Telesat Chooses MDA Ltd. to Build Advanced Satellites for Lightspeed LEO Program

By Sophia Francise

August 15, 2023

Canadian-based innovative satellite operator Telesat has announced that they have selected MDA Ltd. to build 198 advanced satellites for the Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit program.

“MDA is a world class satellite prime contractor with an impressive track record and a number of recent high profile, strategic space programs announced, and it is a privilege to be working side-by-side with them on the flagship, game-changing Telesat Lightspeed constellation. MDA’s deep expertise as a LEO prime contractor, as well our own leading expertise in satellite operations and systems engineering, gives us the highest level of confidence in meeting our objectives,” said Dan Goldberg, President and CEO of Telesat.

The contract, worth CA$ 2.1 billion (USD $1.56 billion), is the largest in MDA’s history and allows them to design, manufacture, and test the satellites in their plant in Montreal.1

“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,” Mike added.

Telesat Lightspeed, Canada’s largest space program, will be a cutting-edge broadband satellite network. MDA will manufacture the satellites in Quebec, aiming to bridge the digital divide, create 2,000 jobs, spur innovation, generate billions of dollars in economic growth, and drive domestic investment and exports.

Telesat Lightspeed Program Funding

Telesat also announced that Telesat Lightspeed is now fully funded through global service delivery, considering the company’s equity contribution, certain vendor financing, and aggregate funding commitments from its Canadian federal and provincial government partners.

The total cost for the Lightspeed constellation is approximately $3.5 billion, which takes into account costs for launches, ground systems, and user terminal technology. 

Telesat will contribute CA$1.6 billion (USD $1.19 billion) in equity, and CA$2 billion (USD $1.49 billion) will come from Canadian government financing. 

This funding will be enough for the company to launch the first 156 satellites of the constellation into orbit by 2026 and allow it to offer global coverage and commercial services by 2027. 

The remaining 42 satellites needed to complete the constellation will be launched gradually using the revenues generated from the constellation. 

MDA’s Role in Telesat Lightspeed Program

The redesigned Telesat Lightspeed network utilizes MDA’s digital beamforming array antennas and integrated regenerative processor for increased efficiency and flexibility in user dynamic capacity delivery.

The technology advances enable smaller satellites while maintaining high service performance, resiliency, and usable capacity in the network, despite previous considerations.

The satellites are also cost-effective, resulting in a $2 billion capital cost savings for the 198-satellite program, compared to Telesat’s previous estimate of $5 billion. This helps fund the program and improves projected financial returns.

References

  1. Telesat, ‘Telesat Contracts MDA as Prime Satellite Manufacturer for Its Advanced Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit Constellation’, 11 August 2023, https://www.telesat.com/press/press-releases/telesat-contracts-mda-as-prime-satellite-manufacturer-for-its-advanced-telesat-lightspeed-low-earth-orbit-constellation/[]
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