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Rivada visits Terran Orbital’s manufacturing HQ

April 18, 2024

Declan Ganley, CEO of Rivada Space, visited Terran Orbital’s brand-new production site at Irvine, California on April 17th and held a Town Hall meeting of the two companies’ staff. The visit was far from routine and was a clear indication of Rivada’s importance to Terran’s financial future.

Ganley was inspecting what will be the main production centre for his 300 satellites being produced and assembled at the new factory. He said: “[We saw] Terran Orbital’s seriously impressive manufacturing lines and technology in action. Like something from a sci-fi movie.”

Ganley and his team were guests of Terran’s CEO Marc Bell. The visit was key and showed that Terran is now in the final stages of readiness for satellite production to start. Timing is essential for what Rivada describes as its ‘OuterNet’ of high-speed laser-linked satellites.

Rivada’s contract for the initial 300 satellites is worth about $2.4 billion, and Rivada paid out its first “milestone” payment reported to be $6.9 million and somewhat short of a 2023 promised $180 million. Nevertheless, Bell, speaking on a recent conference platform at the Satellite 2024 show in Washington alongside Ganley, stressed that Rivada was fully up-to-date with its payment obligations.

Ganley, at the event, talked buoyantly about his company’s prospects and that its “order book” backlog pipeline was already in excess of an impressive $7 billion, he declined to add any colour to where the remaining cash would come from to pay Terran. He said one sovereign fund investor came aboard at the end of last year, and that one or two more were on the way, noting: “the initial strategic investor was expected to follow up with a more significant investment soon.”

Rivada’s satellites will orbit at 1,050 kms – in the so-called Goldilocks Zone – higher than the usual LEO systems and in a total vacuum which is thought to be perfect for laser-connectivity.

Now the production timetable is very much up and running. Rivada must launch at least 288 (out of the initial 300) by September 2026 and likely to start launching on SpaceX rockets from April 2025. A follow-on 300 satellites – not yet contracted with any supplier but which Terran hopes to secure – must be launched by 2028.

In this transition period Rivada is staying busy. In March it received permission from UK regulator Ofcom to provide satellite services to and from the UK. The network licence allows Rivada to use spectrum and deploy user terminals in the UK and used by customers to connect to its satellite network. These can be used on a building, in the air or at sea.

In January it announced a partnership with Wiseband, which focuses on the Middle East and Africa and provides customised private satellite networking solutions which are designed to meet high-performance and stringent security requirements. The company currently has connectivity projects in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.

Ganley’s message to potential clients and the world’s telcos is simple: “If you eliminate the fibre and you just have a pure light laser link,” Ganley explains, “then the speed of that link is faster than light through fibre.”

He expanded his message, saying: “Every other satellite constellation that you’ve heard of, whether it’s a geostationary or whether it’s even a low Earth orbit satellite, they all use ground relay stations. [We don’t. We] take the internet, the subsea cables, all of those things out of the equation, and it instead puts you on its laser mesh network and can send you anywhere around the planet from any point to the other.”

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