Telesat inks deal with SpaceX for its Lightspeed constellation

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will perform 14 launches for Telesat, taking 18 satellites each to the low-earth orbit.
Jijo Malayil
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off


Aerospace seems to be the new buzzword in the technological arena, with multiple new entrants aiming to make a mark in the industry.

To that extent, Canadian satellite operator Telesat and Elon Musk's SpaceX, which designs and manufactures rockets and spacecraft, have agreed to deliver the former's Lightspeed constellation to low-earth orbit.

The association will see SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket perform 14 launches for Telesat, each delivering up to 18 Telesat Lightspeed satellites to low-Earth orbit. The launch campaign, which is set to start in 2026, will take advantage of SpaceX's frequent launches to hasten the deployment of the satellites and allow Telesat to debut its worldwide service in 2027. The campaign's launches will take off from SpaceX's launch pads in Florida and California.

According to Telesat, the company has found SpaceX to be an effective launch provider for its geostationary satellite programs" and it believes that its Falcon 9 rocket program can further the development of its Lightspeed constellation, the "most ambitious program in Telesat’s 54-year history,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President, and CEO, in a statement

It is interesting to note that SpaceX's involvement comes even though the firm's satellite constellation called Starlink aims to provide global internet access with a planned 4,700 operational satellites.

Next-gen connectivity

By 2027, Telesat plans to test its Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit (LEO) program. This optically connected network will offer broadband access and data cables capable of transmitting several gigabytes per second. After several project delays, the firm hopes to begin offering services that year.

Under a $1.6 billion deal, Canadian firm MDA is constructing 198 satellites for Telesat's Lightspeed constellation, with launches set to begin in the middle of 2026. The firm announced in August that it is entrusting MDA with the contract to build smaller satellites after encountering delays with its work at Thales Alenia Space. This pivot towards smaller units, weighing just 1653 pounds (750 kilograms) and about 75% more compact in dimensions, was estimated to save around $2 billion.

According to the firm, the redesigned Telesat Lightspeed network will achieve increased network efficiency and enhanced flexibility using technological advancements like MDA's digital beamforming array antennas and integrated regenerative processor.

Telstar says it is well-positioned to start providing its services in late 2027 thanks to the agreement of MDA as the primary satellite manufacturer in August and the relevant launch contracts for the construction of the global constellation.

"With growing demand for high-speed internet worldwide, SpaceX is proud to launch and deploy Telesat’s Lightspeed constellation. Building upon our successful launch partnership to date, we look forward to flying Telesat once again as they expand connectivity capabilities for their customers across the globe," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer, in a statement. 

The 156 satellites that the Lightspeed constellation will require to start providing internet services are already funded by Telesat, and the company is presently working to get finance for the remaining 42 satellites needed to boost the network's signal density.

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