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Mega Contract of 3 Billion Dollars for Thales Alenia Space

The satellite manufacturer, based in Cannes, signed a historic contract with the Canadian operator Telesat to build the Lightspeed constellation offering high-speed, low-latency mobile telecommunications services across the globe.

A mega-contract worth around 3 billion dollars for Thales Alenia Space! A landmark contract for the satellite manufacturer based in Cannes La Bocca, among other locations, was signed yesterday in the presence of Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, with the Canadian operator Telesat to act as prime contractor for Lightspeed, its high-performance network based on a constellation of satellites with an initial fleet of 298 satellites in low earth orbit (LEO).

298 satellites in the 700 to 750 kg class

Lightspeed will offer high-speed, low-latency telecommunications services to business customers (companies, government services, cell phone operators, etc.) around the world. It is expected to enable a customer to benefit from speeds of up to 7.5 Gps with coverage that will be complete by 2024.

Initially, the Lightspeed space segment will comprise 298 satellites in the 700-750 kg class. The network will provide multi-terabit-per-second connectivity worldwide for secure professional services. This low-orbit constellation is based on innovative architecture and next-generation technologies, providing a very high level of performance and flexibility in capacity allocation," said TAS.

Advanced equipment on board the satellites and a combination of software

It combines advanced equipment onboard the satellites - active antennae capable of dynamically repositioning beams up to a thousand times a second, powerful processors capable of handling multiple bandwidths, inter-satellite laser links to ensure service coverage over the entire globe - and a combination of ground and on-board software to ensure maximum use of system resources.

Laser optical link interconnections between satellites in the constellation will provide a mesh covering the entire surface of the globe, including over oceans and poles while offering a high level of end-to-end service security. These links also optimize the ground segment by reducing the number of ground stations and offering greater freedom in terms of their location, as well as the possibility of deploying them as the network grows.

Telesat will rely on Thales Alenia Space to provide not only space and mission segments but also to be responsible for the end-to-end network performance. The first satellites are expected to be ready for launch in two years.

A constellation "at the highest level of global spatial connectivity".

Bruno Le Maire also hailed a constellation that "will be at the highest level of global spatial connectivity" and added that this historic partnership will create 1,000 jobs in the area. Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Competitiveness, who visited the manufacturer's white rooms in Cannes in mid-January, remarked that "this contract will mobilize Thales Alenia Space in France for the next 5 years". This should also reassure the Cannes facility which, in a very cyclical space market, had been faced with a decrease in its workload in 2019.

CEO Hervé Derrey took the opportunity to emphasize that "Thales Alenia Space has perfect mastery of proven end-to-end orbital systems, payload digitization, inter-satellite links, management of international organizations, as well as industrial capabilities dedicated to constellations". With GlobalStar 2, O3b and Iridium® NEXT, TAS has developed all the low and medium orbit telecommunications satellite constellations that are fully operational today.

As for Lightspeed, it will inevitably find itself in competition with other planetary constellation projects whose development is underway, such as Starlink launched by Space X, OneWeb in which Airbus is involved, or Kuiper financed by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Quite a challenge!

- Jean-Pierre Largillet

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