A representation of the broadband constellation in Telesat’s near-earth orbit
Canadian telecommunications satellite operator Telesat announced Tuesday that Franco-Italian space hardware maker Thales Alenia Space will build its next-generation broadband satellite network called Lightspeed.
Lightspeed will focus on delivering high-speed fiber-like Internet to Telesat’s customers around the world. The network, known in the industry as the Constellation, will consist of 298 next-generation satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of approximately 1,000 kilometers, or just over twice the altitude of the International Space Station.
“We’re not a start-up. This is not a new business for us. It’s the same old customers and the same old markets, but with an architecture that is better and more disruptive,” said Dan Goldberg, CEO of Telesat, to CNBC.
The company is primarily focused on business-to-business customers and expects the Lightspeed constellation to cost $ 5 billion, including the cost of the satellites, the purchase of rocket launches, the construction of the ground infrastructure and development of software platforms for the operation of the network. The cost of the satellites makes up most of that figure, as Goldberg said the contract with Thales Alenia Space is worth about $ 3 billion.
In particular, Goldberg made it clear that Telesat’s Lightspeed constellation is not designed to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink or Amazon’s Kuiper direct-to-consumer networks.
“This is not a broadband game for consumers,” Goldberg said. “We’re one of the largest satellite operators in the world today, and we’ve been for 50 years. But we’ve always been a service provider to businesses … we know this customer base, we know this customer base. We worked with these customers when we imagined this opportunity and designed this constellation. “
The headquarters of the company.
Goldberg stated that Telesat Lightspeed’s customers include cruise lines, airlines and rural communities. The network’s anchor customer, according to Goldberg, will be the Canadian government, which has committed to using Lightspeed to “create a capacity pool that is being sold at very attractive prices to local authorities and truly rural broadband providers.”
“It’s orders of magnitude better than what exists today and even what a lot of people are planning,” said Goldberg. “This is about delivering a low cost per bit to the market.”
Telesat plans to begin launching the first speed of light in 2023. The first satellites will be launched by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin on his New Glenn rocket. Goldberg said he has been “following” the development of New Glenn as the rocket is scheduled to launch next year, but is confident that “it will be ready” when Telesat launches in two years. Telesat will also “announce other launch providers in the coming months”.
Telesat has selected our powerful New Glenn rocket to launch Telesat’s innovative LEO satellite constellation into space.
One of the key technologies that Goldberg says Lightspeed satellites will use is intersatellite links, which allow satellites to establish data links with one another rather than individually connecting to points on the ground.
“We are basically running a large space-based mesh IP network, which means that all of our satellites are always online and generating revenue and can be connected to a user,” said Goldberg.
Inter-satellite links are key to reducing the number of points on the ground that the satellite constellation must connect to, as well as increasing the overall speed of the global network. Goldberg said Telesat plans to deploy around 30 ground stations around the world “because we don’t need that many” and it will help “minimize capital investments and on-site expenses”.
Telesat also worked to reduce the reflectivity of its Lightspeed satellites after SpaceX’s Starlink was hit by a public outcry from astronomers that hundreds of satellites were appearing as bright streaks on images captured by telescopes. Goldberg noted that the Lightspeed satellites will be about twice the height of the Starlink satellites, while also being a fraction of the number in the overall constellation. Telesat’s Lightspeed satellites are also designed to last 10 to 12 years each, so the company doesn’t have to replace them too often.
“We have been using space for 50 years – we are a responsible industrial user of space. We were very careful to ensure that it did not have such negative externalities,” said Goldberg.
Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis as well as live business day programs from around the world.