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Telesat wants 117 new satellites

Newly-proposed satellite constellations seemingly now pop up every day. November 15th saw Elon Musk propose a potential 4400 satellites for his global high-speed broadband system.

Coincidentally, November 15th also saw Canada-based Telesat, which today has a global fleet of 15 satellites (plus two others now being built), confirming it wants a low-orbiting constellation of 117 new satellites. Next year it will launch two prototype satellites in order to secure the frequencies needed for the larger system.

However, at the moment it is far from clear how Telesat might finance its scheme. Its ownership structure is complicated. Telesat is owned by Loral Space and Communications and Canada’s PSP Investments pension fund. Loral has a 62.7 per cent economic ownership of Telesat but just 32.7 per cent of the voting rights. Loral and PSP several years ago agreed in principle to sell Telesat but the satellite operator has simply been unable to find a buyer.

In addition, the two shareholders have been unable to agree a restructuring plan which would have seen the existing shareholder agreement scrapped and replaced with a more conventional ownership/voting rights structure.

Telesat is in the process of raising fresh debt and borrowings in order to repay its current obligations – and also to pay a special dividend to both Loral and PSP.

Telesat, in a US Federal Communications Commission filing, said that it designed its combined polar-/inclined-orbit system, for which a patent is pending, with US military users in mind. The orbital architecture also appears to be in line with the Canadian government’s proposed – but yet to be funded – Enhanced Satellite Constellation Project.

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