Quebec invests in Telesat Lightspeed constellation

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This article was updated at 11:45 pm Feb. 18 with information from an MDA news release.

SAN FRANCISCO – The Quebec government will invest 400 million Canadian dollars ($315.5 million) in Telesat’s Lightspeed low-Earth orbit communications network and MDA will produce the constellation’s phased array antennas, under a memorandum of understanding announced Feb. 18.

The Lightspeed program will create 600 high-paying STEM jobs, leverage Quebec’s substantial aerospace expertise and infrastructure, and allow the province to harness the significant economic growth from the burgeoning New Space economy,” according to a Feb. 18 Telesat news release.

Telesat, a firm that has focused to date on providing communications from geostationary satellites, announced its selection Feb. 9 of Thales Alenia Space to manufacture 298 satellites to beam Wi-Fi to ships and aircraft, as well as businesses and government customers from low Earth orbit.

MDA is “in advanced discussions with Thales Alenia Space for the Lightspeed satellites’ final assembly and manufacturing in Quebec,” according to a Feb. 18 MDA news release. The new facility will “leverage next-generation manufacturing capabilities to deliver on average one Lightspeed satellite per day,” according to the Telesat news release.

The Quebec government will obtain $200 million in preferred Telesat equity and provide the company with a $200 million loan as part of an agreement expected to be signed “in the coming months,” according to the Telesat news release.

The Canadian government agreed in November to pay Telesat 600 million Canadian dollars over 10 years to provide subsidized broadband internet services to rural Canadian communities.

Telesat also will establish a campus in Quebec to house Lightspeed technical operations, including network operations, satellite control, cybersecurity, an engineering laboratory and facility to provide “secure, high-capacity communication links to the Lightspeed constellation,” according to the Telesat news release. “This new campus will host approximately 320 new, highly skilled Telesat jobs, largely in” science, technology, engineering and math.

MDA will provide phased array antennas to be incorporated into Telesat Lightspeed satellites. “MDA will develop the Direct Radiating Array, a revolutionary phased array, electronically-steered multi-beam antenna that will provide unlimited coverage flexibility and agility through advanced beam-forming technology,” according to the MDA news release. “This configuration will achieve any-beam, anytime, anywhere coverage over the entire visible Earth.”