Satellite builder Maxar Technologies reported that it had won an important order for a geostationary communications satellite. It did not name the customer but the order comes after a difficult period of drought for the business and in particular its former Space Systems/Loral division, now called Maxar Space Solutions segment.
Maxar’s CEO Dan Jablonsky, speaking to analysts at the company’s Q3 earnings statement, said that Maxar had revenues of $479 million (down 6 per cent for the year to date). Importantly, he was able to tell analysts that Space Systems/Loral’s construction facility had been the subject of a sale/leaseback deal which will mean an injection of £291 million (net of expenses). “The sale-lease back arrangement will provide us with a stable way to manage current and future programmes even as we continue to reengineer the business,” said Jablonsky.
He brought analysts up-to-date on the state of the market: “Clearly, 2019 has been better with industry awards year-to-date higher than the entirety of 2018.” As to the new order, he said he was confident that this was the first and that Maxar would continue to book more orders over time.
Maxar was now pitching without a former j-v partner (Thales) for a fleet of 300 Telesat orders for its Low Earth Orbiting craft.
Jablonsky explained that the restructuring of the Space Solutions division (where revenues fell 15 per cent) was already paying dividends as it had widened its offering beyond the commercial geostationary market, not least with NASA orders and from other US and international space agencies.
The company lost its WorldView-4 satellite in January due to a problem with its on-board gyroscope. But Jablonsky said that the next version of its WorldView craft, ‘Legion’, would be a major expansion of the concept. “Legion will be a fleet of six high-performance satellites that are expected to dramatically expand Maxar’s ability to revisit the most rapidly changing areas on earth to better inform our customers’ critical and time-sensitive decisions.”
He told analysts that a Legion satellite would overfly the same spot more than 15 times a day, yet be just one-third the mass of the previous fleet versions and yet have 3-times the capacity. “This combination of higher capacity and lower cost bodes well for improved capital efficiency for the company and expanding returns on invested capital over time.” The Legion craft will start launching in early 2021.
He added that Maxar’s highly-regarded MDA (Canadarm) division was now positioned for long-term growth.
Maxar is carrying $3.1 billion in debt