SSL Telesat LEO pathfinder (Source: SSL)

Telesat selects Thales Alenia Space & Maxar for broadband LEO constellation proposal

Canadian-based Telesat has entered into a contract with Thales Alenia Space and Maxar Technologies, owner of SSL, to “further develop” system designs for Telesat’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation. It’s the next step towards factory production of at least an initial 119 satellites for Telesat’s global broadband service.

“We are very pleased that we have now signed the outstanding team of Thales Alenia Space-Maxar who will further develop their design and submit a final proposal in early 2019 for Telesat’s full LEO system, both space and ground segment,” said Erwin Hudson, Vice President Telesat LEO. “Combining Telesat’s proprietary LEO architecture with our global spectrum rights creates a tremendous opportunity for Telesat’s LEO system to truly transform global communications. Telesat looks forward to this next phase of the program and to selecting a prime contractor to build and deploy our LEO space and ground infrastructure.”

In the months to come, the team of Thales Alena Space and Maxar (TASM) will complete the preliminary design of the system, address hardware and software development items, and conduct a series of technical reviews leading to a firm proposal for manufacture and launch of Telesat’s LEO satellites and deployment of the ground system infrastructure.  Telesat expects to decide on a prime contractor for its LEO program by mid-2019, including space segment, ground segment and system integration. The sooner that TASM hands over a proposal, the sooner Telesat can move forward.

Unsaid in the press release are the key advantage of location TASM provides to the table. Maxar has strong ties to Canada and its space industry, having started out as MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates in Vancouver in 1969.  The Canadian government has budgeted $82 million over the next 5 years to expand broadband to rural areas of the country, with LEO satellites expected to play a key role. Investment in LEO services also is expected to create high-tech jobs and potential export opportunities for Canada.

Telesat’s LEO constellation is expected to provide fiber-like – low latency, gigabit speed — services into rural and remote communities, along with providing new levels of performance for commercial and government broadband. The network is also being touted as a means to accelerate 5G expansion, an interesting claim given current 5G selling points.

Thales Alena Space and Maxar are no strangers to building satellites on a production line.  Thales produced 81 Iridium NEXT satellites for Iridium, while Maxtor’s SSL satellite-building division built a group of SkySat imaging satellites for Planet.

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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