Telesat lands $317M from Quebec government for satellite factory

This week Telesat announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Québec to invest $317 million (USD) into the Telesat Lightspeed network in exchange for a $1.27 billion financial commitment for a “significant proportion” of satellite manufacturing and operating in the province, including the construction of a satellite factory, as well as operations.

“Telesat welcomes and appreciates the strong support and participation of the Government of Québec as we embark on Lightspeed, the most ambitious and consequential program in our more than 50-year history,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President and CEO. “The vast aerospace expertise resident in Québec, coupled with the Government’s leadership and vision for the fast-growing New Space Economy, provides an overwhelmingly compelling rationale for Telesat to make substantial investments in the province, including the manufacture of the Lightspeed satellites and the establishment of our extensive technical operations. We deeply value the world-class talent and capabilities in Québec and we are excited to welcome that talent into the Telesat family.”

Under the terms of the MOU, Québec will put up $158 million in preferred equity and a $158 million loan, complementing a $475 million commitment from the Government of Canada for Lightspeed services to “bridge Canada’s digital divide.” The Lightspeed project is expected to create 600 high-paying STEM jobs for Québec and the investment anchors the construction of the Lightspeed final assembly and manufacturing factory being owned and operated by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space.

Québec will be home to a “large” Telesat campus housing Lightspeed technical operations, including a network operating center, satellite control center, cybersecurity operations center, the engineering lab, and a landing station, with the campus supporting 320 Telesat jobs. Telesat will also use Canadian space technology company and Québec-based MDA to manufacture Lightspeed’s phased array antennas to be incorporated into the LEO satellites.

Thales Alenia Space committing to build Lightspeed satellites at an assembly, integration and testing facility in Québec is perhaps the most significant part of today’s announcement.  Telesat had long said it wanted its LEO satellites built in Canada to support the country’s industrial base.  The new factory is expected to crank out an average of one Lightspeed satellite per day once it is up and running.  A initial total build of 298 satellites is anticipated, with the company suggesting it could go up to over 500 satellites in orbit depending on customer demand.

First launch of Telesat Lightspeed satellites are expected in two years, with launches being conducted monthly through 2024.

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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