Minor delays for OneWeb, Telesat, Death for LeoSat

It has been a good week for SpaceX Starlink with a successful launch of 60 communications satellites into orbit, but not so much over the past month for fellow LEO satellite broadband providers. OneWeb and Telesat are having minor slippages “to the right” in their deployment plans while LeoSat has gone dark and is presumable in the process of an orderly shutdown since it failed to obtain funding.

OneWeb’s first 30 plus satellites – the exact number TBD, apparently – were scheduled to go up in December, but the company has pushed back the launch to sometime in January as it conducts additional tests on the first batch of satellites coming out of its new Florida factory. The move was first reported by Irene Klotz of Aviation Week via Twitter and confirmed in email to Space IT Bridge from OneWeb media relations.

“We are taking the utmost care to prepare for launch and therefore are taking a few extra weeks to conduct additional tests on the satellites which will be shipped in December for launch,” the brief statement said. “We are targeting our next launch for mid-to-late January and remain on track for monthly launches thereafter and to begin service in the Arctic in late 2020 and global coverage in 2021.

Telesat initially planned to select a firm to build and integrate its LEO broadband constellation system earlier this year, then moved the date to end of the year and now plans to making an announcement in early 2020. CEO Dan Goldberg made the announcement during the question and answer session in its third quarter financial results call on November 5, 2019, saying the decision would not affect Telesat’s plans to start launching satellites in 2021.

LeoSat conducted a large-scale layoff in late October, putting most or all its dozen to two dozen staff on the street, including its Vice President of Marketing and Chief Commercial Officer. The company was in an earnest search for more investment to move forward, as CCO Ronald van der Breggen discussed in an interview with DCD Magazine (Freewall, email data required) for its October 30 telco supplement.

Attempts to contact LeoSat founders via LinkedIn have been unsuccessful, but sources close to the company expect a formal announcement on the fate of the company within a few weeks. LeoSat accumulated $2 billion worth of service commitments for high-speed satellite broadband services. Such information might be valuable to SpaceX, OneWeb, and Telesat as a pool of sales leads.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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