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Telesat Orders 14 SpaceX Launches for Lightspeed, MDA Looks for Laser Vendor

By Rachel Jewett | September 11, 2023

      Telesat Lightspeed constellation. Photo: Telesat and VIa Satellite illustration

      After finalizing funding and switching manufacturers, Telesat is ramping up activities on its Lightspeed constellation. The operator announced a contract for 14 SpaceX Falcon 9 launches on Monday, and CEO Dan Goldberg teased a future laser terminal deal at World Satellite Business Week. 

      The launch campaign with SpaceX is scheduled to kick off in 2026, so Telesat can begin providing service in 2027. Each launch will carry 14 Lightspeed satellites. 

      This is another instance of SpaceX launching a broadband Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) competitor for its Starlink constellation after launching for OneWeb in the past. While Telesat is not targeting direct-to-consumer business, the constellations will compete in enterprise markets. 

      “With growing demand for high-speed internet around the world, SpaceX is proud to launch and deploy Telesat’s Lightspeed constellation,” commented SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell. “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.”

      Telesat recently switched gears with its constellation, going with MDA for its manufacturer. Goldberg said the switch is giving Telesat a better price and more advanced capabilities with MDA’s beam-forming technology. 

      He said on a panel Monday at World Satellite Business Week that MDA is trying to procure 800 optical terminals for the constellation. It will be the largest order of optical terminals yet, Goldberg said, adding the MDA is looking at a number of options.