Canadarm and satellite operator MDA saw revenues soar 19 percent year-over-year, and increased profitability, in its third-quarter results released Wednesday (Nov. 8).
The revenues increased due to work in all three of the company’s business areas, but particularly in satellite systems and robotics and space operations. This included business for Canadarm3, the robotic arm funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that will service NASA’s planned Gateway lunar space station later in the 2020s.
Canadarm3 is funding Canada’s Artemis program astronaut seats and science, including Jeremy Hansen’s seat on the Artemis 2 round-the-moon mission slated to launch in 2024. MDA is leveraging decades of robotic arm work, along with artificial intelligence research, into formulating the design and construction of Canadarm3.
“We continue to progress the design work on Phase B of the Canadarm3 contract, which MDA was awarded in early 2022,” CEO Mike Greenley told analysts in a phone call on Wednesday.
“The team is making good progress towards the preliminary design review milestones, and during the quarter we submitted an updated bid for the next phases of work on Canadarm3 … we also received follow-on contracts for the Canadarm3 external robotics interfaces, including the final construction and delivery of the interfaces.”
The new contracts, he added, are “the first Canadarm3 hardware components to go into production, a major milestone for the Canadarm3 program and Canada’s space program.”
MDA is also keeping its eye on two big announcements from the CSA in recent months: one concerning a lunar utility vehicle program, and promises to extend the RADARSAT Constellation with a fourth satellite while shopping around for a replacement that will fly later in the 2020s at the least. Greenley said a CSA industry day is forthcoming in the first week of December and he expects to hear more about both programs then.
MDA also had a record backlog of $3.1 billion fueled by Telesat’s Lightspeed LEO constellation contract, valued at $2.1 billion. Telesat aims to bring the satellite set into orbit starting in 2026 to serve enterprise and government customers. (Lightspeed has been delayed by years due to issues with manufacturing and the supply chain, and is now awaiting confirmation of financing on a smaller but still suitable number of satellites for its customer base.)
“We’re very much in sync, we’re executing on the plan. The teams are working really well together. So it’s a very positive story,” Greenley said. While financing is still in the work, Telesat said in its own results Monday (Nov. 6) that it expects that money to come through. On its own side, MDA plans to start activating the supply chain in 2024 for deliveries in 2025 and 2026.
Other quarterly highlights included closing the acquisition of the digital payload division of SatixFy Space Systems UK Ltd. and beginning to manufacture CHORUS, an Earth observation constellation expected to launch with SpaceX starting in Q4 2025.
CHORUS has completed critical design and is now in unit production, Greenley said. “Next year, we’ll transition from unit production into satellite production. And then … based on our schedules, we’ve made all these calls with SpaceX for our launch window.” Adjusted EBITDA was up 10% year-over-year, to $42.8 million, due to “higher volumes” of work across the three business lines. The company is keeping its revenue guidance for fiscal 2023 fairly consistent, to between $790 million to $810 million – a small change from the previous guidance of $785 million to $810 million.