At the Canadian SmallSat Symposium held in Toronto in mid-February, Telesat LEO vice-president announced that the company was planning to manufacture and launch a satellite constellation. The company hopes to launch 117 satellites into orbit, as part of their own broadband network. Coverage is to be provided from 50 degrees north and south latitude, where most of the company’s target market is located.
Telesat is only one of several companies hoping to launch what are known as “megaconstellations” of broadband satellites in Earth’s low orbit. They are notably the first to have successful launched a demonstration satellite. SpaceX is closely behind, with the launch of their first two demonstration satellites scheduled for February 21. OneWeb also plans on placing a satellite constellation into orbit, with their first launch occurring in May of this year.
Two “Phase One” demonstration satellites were constructed, but one was lost in November of 2017 with the Soyuz4 launch mishap. This resulted in the satellite deorbiting over the Atlantic Ocean shortly after launch. The second satellite was successfully launched in January 12, 2018. Using its onboard propulsion mechanisms, the satellite has since climbed to an altitude of 422.5 miles and is expected to hit its final orbiting position in about two months.
Telesat has received thousands of proposals from major satellite manufacturers interested in being part of this project. While they have yet to make a decision about their manufacturer of choice, they have spent time reviewing the proposal documents as well as listening to oral presentations from each one of the bidders.
The company is still looking for partners and funding for its ambitious project. All the research and development work done to date has been funded internally. However, finding partners to help provide with funding could speed the project along. Telesat expects to make an announcement about funding in the next six months or so.