Erwin Hudson, vice president of Telesat Lightspeed System Development, is retiring at the end of June after working on the operator's LEO plans for nine years. Credit: Brian Berger/SpaceNews

TAMPA, Fla. — Telesat now expects to start deploying satellites for Lightspeed around 2026, six years later than originally planned as talks to fund the low Earth orbit broadband constellation drag on.

CEO Dan Goldberg said May 11 the Canadian geostationary satellite operator would give a more definitive deployment timeframe once it secures all of Lightspeed’s funding, including a sizable chunk expected to come from France’s export credit agency.

Telesat has so far lined up about $3 billion for the project via internal resources and Canadian government funding, which was about two-thirds of the budget before inflation and supply chain issues added at least $250 million in costs last year.

Speaking during the company’s quarterly earnings call with analysts, Goldberg said inflationary pressures have since stabilized but he did not give an update on Lightspeed costs or launch agreements for the nearly 200 satellites to be built by Europe’s Thales Alenia Space.

Telesat has previously said it plans to use rockets still under development by Blue Origin and Relativity Space to deploy the constellation. 

Telesat also needs to secure regulatory extensions to retain Lightspeed’s priority Ka-band spectrum rights following the delay.

Chief LEO architect to retire

Goldberg said plans by Lightspeed system development vice president Erwin Hudson to retire at the end of June do not affect the company’s ability to progress with the program.

Hudson joined Telesat in 2017 to lead development of the LEO constellation, projected at the time to launch in 2020 for commercial services starting in 2021.

Telesat held off picking a manufacturer until 2021 to get a better deal on parts, only for Thales Alenia Space to run into pandemic-related supply chain issues that led to them downsizing the proposed constellation a year later.

Hudson had delayed retirement longer than Telesat had anticipated, Goldberg said, and will likely continue advising the company beyond June.

Broadcast business drags on financials

Telesat’s revenues fell 5% to 183 million Canadian dollars ($136 million) for the three months ended March 31, compared with the same period last year when adjusted for changes in foreign exchange rates.

The drop was mainly due to broadcast customers buying less capacity from Telesat’s satellites after renewing their contracts. 

More sales of connectivity equipment to the Canadian government and services to aviation and maritime customers helped offset the decline in its broadcast business.

Adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, decreased 8% to 139 million Canadian dollars.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...