TAMPA, Fla. — Telesat plans to launch another low Earth orbit (LEO) prototype satellite in the coming months to continue tests after an aging demonstrator for its delayed broadband constellation ran out of fuel.
The Canadian geostationary satellite operator announced May 30 that it had ordered a microsatellite called LEO 3 from Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), part of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS).
SFL has already integrated a communications payload for the 30-kilogram satellite and completed vibration and electromagnetic compatibility tests, Telesat said in the news release.
The operator ordered LEO 3 in August 2021, Telesat chief technology officer Dave Wendling told SpaceNews, to ensure tests for its proposed Lightspeed constellation could continue after its first operational demonstrator LEO 1 expired.
Wendling said Telesat is in the process of shutting down LEO 1, expected to burn up in the atmosphere in the coming years in accordance with regulatory rules.
Built by U.K.-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), LEO 1 has been helping Telesat test plans for a Ka-band network of nearly 200 satellites since launching in January 2018.
Another prototype satellite called LEO 2, built by SFL in partnership with Space Systems Loral (now owned by Maxar Technologies), was one of 19 satellites lost in a 2017 Russian Soyuz launch failure.
Wendling said Telesat would announce a launch provider it has selected for LEO 3 very soon.
Unlike LEO 1, he said LEO 3 would be able to transmit and receive in Q-band and V-band spectrum in addition to Ka-band, potentially setting Telesat up for a second-generation constellation if its first comes to fruition.
Telesat recently said it expects to start deploying Lightspeed satellites around 2026, six years later than originally planned, amid ongoing talks to fully fund a constellation set to be built by Thales Alenia Space.
The delays mean Telesat needs to secure regulatory extensions to retain the network’s priority Ka-band spectrum rights.