Telesat picks a manufacturer — and a name — for its LEO constellation

Plans call for broadband service starting in 2023

Telesat has awarded Thales Alenia Space a $3 billion contract to build the satellites for its planned broadband constellation in low-Earth orbit, the Ottawa telecommunications provider announced today.

The selection ends a yearlong competition in which France-based Thales Alenia bid against Maxar Technologies of Colorado and Germany-based Airbus Defense and Space to build Telesat’s constellation of 298 satellites, which Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg estimated will cost about $5 billion once launch costs are figured in. Along with the manufacturer announcement, Goldberg also revealed the name of Telesat’s LEO venture: Lightspeed.

“In broadband, speed is critical, and ‘Lightspeed’ is designed to capture the essence of that,” Goldberg said in a call with reporters.

Telesat will focus its broadband on ships and aircraft and also on rural communities under a $600 million agreement with the Canadian government. Telesat will dedicate a “pool” of Lightspeed’s capacity to those communities, Goldberg said.

To ensure global coverage, the company plans for 78 of the satellites to circle the poles in 1,000-kilometer polar orbits, and the remaining 220 satellites to follow inclined orbits at 1,300 kilometers.

Plans call for production to begin  at Thales Alenia’s factory in Toulouse, France, CEO Hervé Derrey said during the press conference, the eventual goal being to build one satellite per day.

The first batch of satellites would be launched in early 2023 aboard a Blue Origin New Glenn rocket. Telesat plans to announce more launch providers “in the coming months,” Goldberg said. If the schedule holds, Telesat would begin broadband service with Lightspeed in parts of Canada in 2023, with global coverage by 2024.

“We feel good about our schedule and we feel good about when we’ll be coming to market,” Goldberg said.


Telesat picks a manufacturer — and a name — for its LEO constellation