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SpaceLink Adjusts Plan for Constellation Rollout  With Smaller, Cheaper Satellites

By Rachel Jewett | March 1, 2022

An illustration of SpaceLink’s data relay satellites. Photo: SpaceLink

SpaceLink is adjusting the plan to roll out its in-space relay constellation with plans to first launch a constellation of smaller satellites to go to market more quickly. 

In October, SpaceLink announced an “authority to proceed” agreement with OHB Systems AG (OHB) to build the data relay satellites. SpaceLink and OHB then entered into a co-engineering phase to finalize the design. OHB and SpaceLink improved the initial design, but pushed the project schedule by six months, from early-2024 operations to mid-2024, at a cost increase of $50 million, to $750 million. 

SpaceLink and parent company Electro Optic Systems (EOS) announced Feb. 25 that it has come up with a new satellite design, Block-O, to accelerate the schedule and reduce the cost. Block-O is made up of smaller, cheaper satellites that SpaceLink expects to get on orbit faster. SpaceLink now expects to spend $240 million on Block-O, and to achieve initial operational capability in space before mid-2024, which will give it more of a buffer to meet its spectrum deadline with the FCC. 

EOS said it has received proposals for the new satellites and has shortlisted two vendors. Final selection is expected next month. 

“It’s a stepping-stone approach,” CEO David Bettinger told Via Satellite. “We are a new satellite operator that is looking to get established and, and having a stepping stone approach makes a lot more sense from an investor standpoint. Now, [the business] can sell off the capacity of our smaller constellation even quicker, which allows us to order the next set of extra capacity and additional satellites hopefully during next year.” 

SpaceLink is extending the co-engineering phase with OHB to ensure interoperability of any future SpaceLink satellites.