On August 31, 2017, India’s PSLV-C39 launched normally but ultimately failed when the fairing failed to separate. This Thursday evening, India will launch it’s next PSLV-C40 mission with Telesat’s LEO-1 technology demonstration satellite on-board. After losing their other technology demonstration satellite, LEO-2, on a failed Russian launch last November, they must be a little nervous.
What are the odds that India will have two launch failures in a row? What are the odds that Telesat will lose both of their Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation technology demonstration satellites within a month and half?
The odds aren’t zero. However, by putting both satellites on different launch vehicles, Telesat made sure the odds were better that at least one launch will succeed.
The remaining satellite, LEO-1, is part of Phase 1 in Telesat’s plan to deploy an initial constellation of 117 Low Earth Orbit small satellites. The constellation is meant to provide cost-effective high speed connectivity to regions not currently being served. Telesat’s says the constellation “will both enable and accelerate this transformation by providing high performing, cost effective, fiber-like connectivity anywhere on the planet for business, government and individual users.”
According to Erwin Hudson, vice president of Telesat LEO, in an interview with SpaceNews, “Phase 1 testing will focus on making sure the satellites and customer terminals are capable of tracking LEO satellite motion, compensating for the Doppler effects of a moving satellite, operating at the required elevation angles and delivering the high-quality, low-latency broadband experience that MEO and GEO satellites cannot achieve.”
“We’ve already put ground infrastructure in place at our teleport in Allan Park in Canada so that we can start testing key performance parameters as soon as the satellite manufacturers complete their in-orbit check-out. In addition, many of our existing Telesat customers are really excited about the promise of Telesat LEO and will be participating in a range of tests on the Phase 1 satellites during 2018.”
Telesat isn’t the only player trying to enter the LEO constellation sweepstakes. Others include OneWeb, SpaceX and others. But Telesat has one advantage over many of its competitors. Last November, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission granted Telesat access to the U.S. market for its constellation. That was a very important milestone, just as getting LEO-1 safely into orbit and operational will be.
Below is a podcast with Telesat’s CEO Dan Golberg from last fall discussing the company and the LEO constellation.