Maxar eyes September 2021 launch for WorldView Legion satellites

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SAN FRANCISCO – Maxar Technologies plans to launch its first two WorldView Legion satellites as early as September 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“We continue to make progress on the integration, assembly and test of all six spacecraft and instruments, and we expect to go into environmental testing early next year,” Dan Jablonsky, Maxar president and CEO, said during a Nov. 5 earnings call. “This is a complex program and many elements need to come together to ensure the level of quality and mission success we expect.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Maxar planned to begin launching WorldView Legion satellites in the first quarter of 2021. Due to the pandemic, however, “some of the vendor hardware is showing up just a little later than we originally planned,” Jablonsky said. Those delays impact the timeline for full integration, which means environmental testing also occurs a little later, he added.

Maxar plans to launch the second two WorldView Legion satellites approximately three to six months after the first launch, Jablonsky said.

For the third quarter of 2020, Maxar reported revenues of $436 million, a gain of nearly 6% compared with the $413 million in revenues for the same period in 2019.

“Overall the demand environment for our products and services remains resilient and robust,” Jablonsky said.

Maxar booked $500 million in orders during the quarter, including the $300 million annual option to provide imagery and data to the U.S. government through the EnhancedView program. Maxar also won a multi-million-dollar contract to continue licensing data for Esri’s ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World through 2023 and more than $100 million in contracts with various government agencies.

For example, Maxar announced a U.S. Army indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contract worth as much as $49 million over eight years for Remote Ground Terminal, a portable direct-downlink tactical ground systems to send geospatial intelligence to soldiers in remote locations. In September, Maxar announced initial task orders with a value of $8 million.

Maxar’s space infrastructure business revenues jumped nearly 12 percent compared with the third quarter of 2019. That was “primarily as a result of increased volume of U.S. government contracts offset by reductions in commercial programs,” Biggs Porter, Maxar chief financial officer said during the earnings call.

In contrast, Maxar’s Earth intelligence business revenues declined by about $8 million compared with the same period in 2019. The decline was driven primarily by $10 million decrease in the revenue recognized during the quarter for the EnhancedView contract, which provides Earth observation data to U.S. government agencies.

“These decreases were partially offset by $9 million in revenue growth from new contract awards and expansion of existing programs with the U.S. government,” Maxar said in a Nov. 5 news release.

During the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Maxar revenue roughly doubled for SecureWatch, a cloud-based geospatial subscription service for electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar data.

Maxar completed the sale of MDA, its Canadian subsidiary, in April. That sale, along with the acquisition in July of Vricon, a 3D geospatial products and analytics specialist, “provide us flexibility and capabilities to execute on our multi-year growth plan,” Porter said.

Maxar continues to focus on diversifying its business and winning additional contracts with U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

“We’ve been pursuing several opportunities and look forward to the day when we’ll be able to announce something substantial,” Jablonsky said. “For now, we’re mostly involved in study contracts and design work. We remain very focused on diversification and believe that successful execution of our strategy will lead to sustained growth over time.”