TAMPA, Fla. — Rising costs and delays have forced Telesat to cut plans for 298 low-Earth orbit satellites by a third to stay within its $5 billion budget.
The Canadian satellite operator plans to order just 188 satellites plus 10 in-orbit spares from Thales Alenia Space, Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg said during the company’s earnings call on May 6.
That’s still enough for the Telesat Lightspeed network to provide “something like 10 terabits of capacity” globally, according to Goldberg, which is more capacity than all current satellites in geostationary orbit combined.
Telesat had previously planned to provide 15 terabits of capacity with 298 operational LEO satellites for the government and business markets it intends to serve.
However, Telesat I had to rethink the constellation. after Thales Alenia Space alerted the company in October that it had run into a supply chain shortage, delaying the service’s planned debut by a year to 2026.
Despite the downsizing of Telesat Lightspeed, Goldberg expects the project to continue to cost $5 billion amid rising inflation.
He said Telesat has lined up C$4.2 billion ($3.3 billion) so far to finance the project from existing financial resources and funding from the Canadian government.
The company is awaiting commitments to cover the remainder of the cost of Telesat Lightspeed before signing an order contract with Thales Alenia Space.
Goldberg said he hopes to have “a pretty good idea of where we’re sitting” with the export credit agencies to complete financing for the project by the end of June.
He said Telesat came close to securing these funds before having to pause discussions last year to update its constellation plans.
Changing the landscape of NGOs
The delay in the order for Telesat Lightspeed satellites gives Amazon’s proposed LEO constellation, Project Kuiper, more time to catch up with the company.
amazon announced multimillion dollar contracts april 5 for launching most of the 3,236 Project Kuiper satellites over five years. Although Amazon did not say when launches will begin, it must deploy half of the constellation by July 2026 under its license from the Federal Communications Commission.
Project Kuiper is primarily focused on consumer broadband, similar to SpaceX’s rapidly expanding Starlink network that currently has more than 2,100 satellites in LEO, but could seek a piece of Telesat Lightspeed’s enterprise and government markets.
OneWeb’s planned LEO constellation is focused on the enterprise and government markets. The British startup had deployed 428 satellites, or 66% of its total planned fleet, before pausing launches in March after getting caught in sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
OneWeb has launch agreements signed with SpaceX and the Indian space agency to resume satellite deployments this year.
Telesat has previously said that its LEO constellation could capture 1% of a total addressable market worth C$430 billion, implying revenue of C$4.3 billion.
The company reported C$186 million in revenue for the three months to the end of March, a 2% decrease compared to the same period in 2021 when adjusted for foreign exchange rates.
The drop in revenue was mainly due to lower direct-to-home broadcasting business in North America and a drop in equipment sales to Canadian government customers, according to Telesat.
Goldberg said US satellite broadcaster Dish Network had renewed a contract to use its Ku Anik F3-band satellite for at least another two years, but at a lower rate.
Dish Network is using “a little more than half” of the capacity it had previously been taking on Anik F3, it said, with most of the remaining capacity it did not renew being sold to a mobility service provider for the maritime market. .