Rivada orders satellites from Terran Orbital
February 23, 2023
By Chris Forrester
Munich-based Rivada Space Networks (RSN) has ordered 300 satellites from Terran Orbital. But there’s a problem: Rivada’s investment for this initial batch of satellites is $2.4 billion, but the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) rules require all the satellites to be in orbit within 43 months. This, by any measure, is a tight timetable.
The operator has ITU filings in place for two 300-satellite constellations with two sets of orbital delivery obligations. RSN said: “With a contract for manufacturing now in place, deployment will start in 2025, with 300 satellites (288 plus 12 spares) by mid-2026.”
RSN said it is focused on the growth in demand for the “billions of new devices coming online” and is “animated by the conviction that it should be as easy to purchase connectivity as it is to by cloud storage or compute power. We believe that Connectivity-as-a-Service is the future.”
RSN’s optimism is praiseworthy but Terran Orbital’s Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems is itself a newcomer to building these magnitude of orders or especially craft of these 500 kgs larger sizes.
That optimism is also based on what RSN have admitted was a series of intense negotiations with industry main satellite suppliers over the highly-concentrated build – and launch – timetable.
Helping RSN are a relaxation of some of the ITU’s ‘bringing into use’ rules. A waiver in the ITU’s regulations permits Rivada to by-pass the first obligation (which normally requires 10 percent of the satellites to be orbited this year and which translated as being by June and September for the two constellations this year) and instead RSN – by necessity – has committed to getting 50 per cent of its initial 288-satellite constellation to be in orbit by June and September 2026, and thus meeting the ITU rules.
The two constellations have different deadlines for their 50 percent deployments. One is June 10th 2026, and the other is September 18th 2026. The Rivada plan – along with Terran’s construction – allows for “a bit of margin” in potential delays in manufacturing or launchers.
The final deadline, as per ITU rules, must see all of the satellites in orbit by June/September 2028.
Rivada is on record as saying that it has financing for the project in place and for its conventional expenses for the years ahead.
Rivada’s executive chairman Declan Ganley has said that launch contracts are “imminent”.
Ganley added: “With this contract, Rivada is one step closer to launching a global network dedicated to the wholesale sale of connectivity and capacity at market rates, making truly global connectivity-as-a-service a reality. The constellation we are building with Terran Orbital in combination with our patented Open Access Wireless Market Platform allow us to offer a network with unprecedented flexibility to users around the world. It will be instrumental in driving the next leg of the ongoing communications revolution.”