TAMPA, Fla. — Telesat has contracted 14 launches from SpaceX starting in mid-2026 to deploy its entire Lightspeed broadband constellation within a year, the Canadian satellite operator said Sept. 11.

Each Falcon 9 rocket could carry up to 18 of the 750-kilogram low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites Canada’s MDA is building — or 252 in total, although the number per launch would vary depending on the orbital plane.

Telesat ordered 198 satellites from MDA last month after announcing funding commitments for 156 of them, enough to provide initial multi-terabit polar and global services.

The operator says the roughly $800 million needed to finance another 42 satellites to densify coverage and expand capacity could come from early Lightspeed revenues, or via incremental funding sources ahead of launching commercial LEO services in late 2027.

Lightspeed will be deployed from SpaceX’s launch facilities in California and Florida, Telesat added, leveraging the company’s high launch cadence to deploy the satellites rapidly following funding and production delays.

The operator also has agreements with Blue Origin and Relativity Space for launching LEO satellites with rockets still under development.

“We continue to be in close contact with Blue Origin and believe they will become a valued launch provider,” Telesat spokesperson Lynette Simmons said, adding that it is important for the company to retain launch optionality.

She said Telesat did not intend to use Relativity for the initial constellation deployment. Instead, Telesat would use the 3D printing specialist for single satellite launches to replace a satellite or add to the constellation.

Mass manufacturing

Telesat switched to MDA after supply chain issues caused more delays for a constellation it initially planned to start launching in 2020.

Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s CEO, said in a recent interview with SpaceNews that he expects MDA will start producing one satellite a day for Lightspeed around this time next year.

Speaking on a panel Sept. 11 during Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris, Goldberg said MDA is currently trying to procure 800 optical terminals for the constellation. 

“I think it’ll be the biggest order of optical terminals in history,” he said.

Each Lightspeed satellite would have four optical terminals, enabling secure and resilient broadband connectivity focused on serving enterprise and government customers.

Around $1.6 billion of the total $3.5 billion cost for an initial 156 Lightspeed satellites is being funded via Telesat equity, with the remaining coming from Canadian federal and provincial financing commitments.

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...