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Telesat going ahead with LEO project

May 4, 2020

Ottawa-based Telesat is still planning to launch a constellation of almost 300 Low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites despite the recent bankruptcies of OneWeb and LeoSat.

However, the ultra-cautious satellites operator (which has fleets of Anik, Telstar and Nimiq craft in orbit) is somewhat slower in getting orders placed for the construction of this new LEO fleet. It had been expected to have initiated services this year, but now reportedly says that a prime contractor will be named in the next few months.

Telesat is the world’s fourth-largest satellite operator of geostationary craft and launched its first test LEO “Vantage” back in January 2018 and now says that it is moving “aggressively” forward to begin services in 2022.  By then some 78 satellites should have been launched and enough for services to be offered in higher latitudes.

Currently it is understood that three satellite manufacturers are in competition to win the contracts: Maxar Technologies, Airbus and Thales Alenia.

Telesat has a rocket launch contract in place with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin/New Glenn rocket.

Telesat’s comments came during its April 30th Q1/2020 results announcement (period to March 30th) when it reported consolidated revenue of C$209 million, a decrease of 6 per cent (C$14 million) compared to the same period in 2019.

“Our first quarter results were consistent with our expectations at the outset of the year, notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic,” commented Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President/CEO. “Although we expect to face some headwinds from the pandemic throughout the balance of this year and potentially beyond, we believe that it will be principally from customers serving the aeronautical and maritime markets, which we estimate (in the aggregate) represented roughly just 10 per cent of our total 2019 revenue.

Telesat reported fleet utilisation of 82 per cent, and a contracted backlog of C$3.2 billion.

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