Telesat LightSpeed Constellation Seemingly Clears Final Hurdle by Adding MDA as its Prime

Telesat Contracts MDA as Prime Satellite Manufacturer for the Telesat Lightspeed constellation. Image credit: Telesat.

After years of delay Telesat announced today it was proceeding with the production phase of its LightSpeed constellation having secured the necessary funding and selecting MDA as the prime satellite manufacturer.

The news will have a major impact on both Telesat and MDA.

For Telesat, after years of delay, it will finally allow them to complete the pivot to the new reality of what it means to be a global satellite operator in the era of small satellites and growing communications networks in low Earth orbit (LEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO).

For MDA, becoming the prime satellite manufacturer to Telesat represents the single largest contract in its history and is valued at approximately $2.1 billion. It will now build 198 satellites for Telesat.

To make the financing work Telesat shaved approximately $2 billion from the capital costs. It did this they state “by taking advantage of key technology advances, including MDA’s industry-leading digital beamforming array antennas and integrated regenerative processor.”

In addition to the capital cost savings, Telesat said it was 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 satellites have been redesigned and will be smaller than the previous design and weigh less. The total cost of the constellation of is now pegged at $3.5 billion. Initially however, 156 satellites will be built at a cost of $2.7 billion. Telesat has already signed contracts with undisclosed launch provider(s) with the first launches scheduled for mid-2026 and “polar and global services scheduled to begin in late 2027.”

Telesat was quite bullish in MDA’s new digital beamforming array antennas and how it was “industry-leading.” To that MDA added in their news release on the contract that it would “introduce its new software-defined digital satellite product line during World Satellite Business Week in September.” Telesat becomes the anchor customer for this new product.

MDA said the satellites will be built in Montreal and that Telesat had the option to order another 100 satellites to bring the constellation up to 298. MDA also stated that their production facility will be able to produce two satellites a day.

That facility “leverage(s) Industry 5.0 techniques including AI, automation, cobots, augmented reality and highly-skilled assemblers to meet the accelerated rates required for high volume non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite systems.”

Dan Goldberg, President and CEO of Telesat said “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. 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.”

Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA added that “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. 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.”

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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