Telesat gets security clearance to serve US government directly

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Canada’s Telesat said April 4 it has gained the security clearances it needs to sell directly to U.S. government customers.

The approval for the satellite operator’s U.S.-based Telesat Government Solutions subsidiary is an important milestone for the company’s low Earth orbit (LEO) ambitions, according to the business unit’s new president Tom Eaton.

“The direct interaction with the U.S. government customers is key for us in making sure that, as we roll out the network, that it’s designed with the important features that the U.S government customers are going to want,” said Eaton, who used to run Telesat’s non-Canadian international sales efforts.

Telesat Government Solutions President Tom Eaton. Credit: Telesat

While providing capacity at a wholesale level to customers who would then distribute it to the U.S. government “worked fine for us in a [geostationary orbit] space,” he said its Lightspeed LEO network requires closer cooperation to fine-tune services.

Telesat Government Solutions started the process for Facility Clearance from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency in August 2020.

“I think our timing is perfect because there’s large [Request for Proposals (RFPs)] that are being issued for things like proliferated LEO, where the U.S government will select not just one but multiple commercial LEO systems to support their communication needs,” Eaton added.

Although Lightspeed has run into production delays that have pushed out the launch of its services into 2026, Eaton said Telesat also sees growing demand for helping the U.S. government understand and take advantage of emerging LEO capabilities with other systems.

He pointed to the study contract Telesat has with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the Blackjack program, which involves two spacecraft slated to launch in October to LEO at roughly the same altitude as its planned Lightspeed network.