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Telesat Contracts MDA as Prime Satellite Manufacturer for Its Advanced Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit Constellation


August 11, 2023

Telesat has announced that space technology company MDA Ltd.  will build 198 advanced satellites for the Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit (LEO) program. Telesat also announced that Telesat Lightspeed is now fully funded through global service delivery taking into account the company’s own equity contribution, certain vendor financing, and aggregate funding commitments from its Canadian federal and provincial government partners.   

By taking advantage of key technology advances, including MDA’s industry-leading digital beamforming array antennas and integrated regenerative processor, the re-designed Telesat Lightspeed network will achieve increased network efficiency and enhanced flexibility to focus and dynamically deliver capacity to users. These technology advances allow each satellite to be slightly smaller than the satellites Telesat was previously considering while still maintaining the highest levels of service performance, resiliency and overall usable capacity in the network.

Importantly, these state-of-the art satellites are also highly cost effective, resulting in an anticipated total capital cost savings for the 198-satellite program of approximately US$2 billion compared to Telesat’s prior capital estimate. This substantial savings facilitates the funding of the program and meaningfully improves what were already compelling projected financial returns.

Leveraging Telesat’s 54-year history of engineering excellence, the Telesat Lightspeed network was designed from inception to serve the demanding, mission-critical connectivity requirements of enterprise and government users. Service offerings for the optically-linked mesh network in space include multi-Gbps data links, Layer 2 MEF 3.0 standards, and highly secure, resilient, low-latency broadband connectivity anywhere in the world. With the signing of this contract, the Telesat Lightspeed program begins immediately, with satellite launches scheduled to commence in mid-2026 and polar and global services scheduled to begin in late 2027.


“I’m incredibly proud of the Telesat team for their innovative work to further optimize our Telesat Lightspeed design – which was already a highly advanced and high performing LEO network – resulting in dramatically reduced costs with unmatched enterprise-class service offerings,” stated Dan Goldberg, President and CEO of Telesat. “MDA is a world class satellite prime contractor with an impressive track record and a number of recent high profile, strategic space programs announced, and it is a privilege to be working side-by-side with them on the flagship, game-changing Telesat Lightspeed constellation. MDA’s deep expertise as a LEO prime contractor, as well our own leading expertise in satellite operations and systems engineering, gives us the highest level of confidence in meeting our objectives.”

“True to our values, MDA has been committed to being a trusted Telesat Lightspeed mission partner since the beginning, and our proven performance as a LEO constellation satellite prime contractor will now be leveraged to take the constellation forward,” said Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA. “We believe in Telesat’s mission and vision and are excited that our software-defined digital satellite product will be a key enabler in meeting their goals as we work together to usher in the next generation of space-based satellite communications.”

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Telesat Contracts MDA as Prime Satellite Manufacturer for Its Advanced Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit Constellation