Telesat buys SpaceX launches for Lightspeed internet satellites

A rendering of Telesat’s low earth orbit broadband constellation.


PARIS – Competitors or not, SpaceX continues to be willing to launch for other satellite internet companies.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX signed a hefty deal with satellite operator Telesat, the companies announced Monday. The agreement covers 14 launches of the Canadian venture’s Lightspeed internet satellites.

Telesat will utilize SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with missions beginning in 2026. Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg heralded Falcon 9 as a “great value proposition.” 

“It’s affordable, it’s reliable … they can launch multiple satellites a week. It’s phenomenal,” Goldberg told CNBC.

SpaceX has used its rockets to launch communications satellites for companies that compete directly or indirectly with its global Starlink internet network. Recent examples include satellites for OneWeb, Viasat, and EchoStar. These deals come as an Amazon shareholder alleges the company snubbed SpaceX for launch contracts of the tech giant’s Kuiper internet satellites.

Sign up here to receive weekly editions of CNBC’s Investing in Space newsletter.

Financial terms for Telesat’s deal with SpaceX were not disclosed. SpaceX advertises Falcon 9 launches for $67 million each, which would put Telesat’s purchase around $900 million at that pricing.

Telesat’s purchase comes as an answer to needing dependable rides to orbit in short order. Despite Telesat’s 2019 agreement with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to use its New Glenn rocket, delays in New Glenn’s development mean that rocket has yet to launch for the first time.

Goldberg told CNBC on Monday that the agreement with Blue Origin is still in place. He cited non-disclosure agreements for why he can’t disclose the number of New Glenn launches that Telesat has lined up, but noted Blue Origin gives his company future “optionality” and believes New Glenn will “in the fullness of time be a great launch vehicle.”

Goldberg has previously emphasized to CNBC that Lightspeed is not intended to compete in direct-to-consumer markets against SpaceX’s Starlink or Amazon’s Kuiper. Instead, it will maintain Telesat’s existing focus on enterprise customers — government and commercial markets, however, that Starlink has expanded into over the past year.

Earlier this summer Telesat announced a swap in the manufacturer of its Lightspeed satellites, with Canadian space company MDA taking the place of French-Italian manufacturer Thales Alenia Space. That deal saves Telesat about $2 billion in launching its network of 198 satellites.

“It was a home run,” Goldberg said Monday of the MDA contract.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *