Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin announced Thursday, January 31 that it has signed an agreement to launch satellites for Canadian telecommunications company Telesat. Telesat is one of several companies racing to build satellite internet in low Earth orbit, a list that includes Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson-backed OneWeb.
As per the agreement announced yesterday, January 31, Blue Origin will launch satellites for Telesat on its New Glenn rocket, which it is hoping to launch the first time in 2021, giving the company the ability to reach orbit. Currently, Blue Origin’s space tourism-focused New Shepard vehicle – which could start launching people this year – can only perform short hops to suborbit.
Telesat is Canada’s largest satellite operator, and it is in the process of developing a constellation of space internet satellites that will provide internet services around the world – including the estimated 4 billion people that lack internet access. A number of other companies including SpaceX and OneWeb, are also involved in this race to develop a functioning global space internet.
“Blue Origin is honored that Telesat has selected our powerful New Glenn rocket to launch Telesat’s innovative LEO satellite constellation into space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement.
“We are excited to be partnering with this industry leader on their disruptive satellite network architecture. New Glenn’s 7-meter fairing, with its huge mass and volume capabilities, is a perfect match for Telesat’s constellation plans while reducing launch costs per satellite.”
The agreement did not go into detail on how many satellites would be launched, or when. But we do know that Telesat hopes to eventually have nearly 300 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), enough to beam internet services around the world.
“Blue Origin’s powerful New Glenn rocket is a disruptive force in the launch services market which, in turn, will help Telesat disrupt the economics and performance of global broadband connectivity,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President and CEO, in a separate statement. “Telesat is working with a range of world-class companies to build, deploy and operate our advanced, global LEO network.”
Telesat also announced that it had signed an agreement with Loon, a project from Google’s parent company Alphabet that plans to provide internet services via a fleet of floating balloons in the stratosphere. This agreement will see Loon supply software to help Telesat’s fleet of satellites in orbit deliver internet to the ground.
As mentioned, Telesat is not the only company hoping to make waves in the space internet market, which has been valued at $127.7 billion. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working on its own service, called Starlink, with the goal of launching a rather astonishing 12,000 satellites in total.
Satellite broadband startup OneWeb meanwhile, which also plans to fly satellites on New Glenn, is aiming to launch about 600 satellites into orbit to compete with Telesat and SpaceX. The company has raised $1.7 billion to date, and had planned to launch its first 10 satellites in February 2019, although the launch has been delayed.
As for when we might see space internet become a reality, OneWeb is hoping to begin its service in 2019 or2020 Telesat already has satellites in orbit, and plans to start offering a first generation space internet service in the early 2020s. And SpaceX is aiming to launch its first batch of satellites this year, with its full constellation deployed by the mid-2020s.
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