Thursday, July 27, 2017

SpaceX Dominates, MDA Builds Comms & Telesat Plans LEO Sats (But Hasn't Yet Committed)

          By Henry Stewart

For the week of July 24th, 2017, here are a few of the stories we're currently tracking for the Commercial Space blog:

The SpaceX share of the global commercial launch market since 2010. Graphic c/o Ars Technica.

As outlined in the article, SpaceX recently raised $350Mln US ($440Mln CDN) in additional funding. During this process the company was valued at $21Bln US ($26Bln CDN).
In 2015, when Google and Boston, MA based Fidelity Investments dropped $1Bln US ($1.26Bln CDN) into SpaceX, the company was valued in total at only $12Bln US ($15Bln CDN).  
This represents almost a doubling of value in only two years. The article also noted that the current valuation places SpaceX in a very rarefied air:
... just six other venture-backed companies are valued at $20 billion or more around the world. These companies include US-based companies Uber, Airbnb, Palantir, and WeWork, as well as Chinese firms Didi Chuxing and Xiaomi.  
The common thread among most of these business is their potential to become a globally dominant business, which SpaceX aspires to in the commercial launch market. 
During his testimony before a Senate subcommittee earlier this month, a senior vice president for SpaceX, Tim Hughes, noted that in 2013 SpaceX had less than 10 percent of the global share of commercial launch contracts. That number jumped to about 40 percent this year, and Hughes predicted it would rise to 60 percent in 2018...
In 1992, after spending two years at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Elon Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. 
Maybe we should have given him some incentive to stay in Canada. 
As outlined on the SNC "About Dream Chaser" webpage, "the Dream Chaser spacecraft is 30 feet, or 9 meters, long which is roughly ¼ the total length of the space shuttle orbiters. The spacecraft can carry the same crew size as the space shuttle and can remain docked to the ISS considerably longer." Graphic c/o SNC.
As outlined in the July 26th, 2017 MDA press release, "MDA to provide communications subsystem to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) for Dream Chaser transportation spacecraft to support the ISS," the Dream Chaser is scheduled for at least six cargo delivery missions to and from the International Space Station (ISS) between 2020 and 2024.
No dollar amount was included with the announcement. 
More likely than not, the latest contract will be one of the items discussed during the MDA earnings conference call, which will begin promptly at 6am PT (9am  EST) on Friday, July 28th, 2017 to review the company Q2 financial results.
We'll talk about that meeting, next week. 
Telesat CEO Goldberg. Photo c/o SpaceNews/ Kate Patterson.

  • According to Ottawa, ON based Telesat President and CEO Dan Goldberg, his company is considering the option to add a low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of 117 satellites to provide telecommunications services with improved performance and smaller latency delays. 
As outlined in the July 26th, 2017 Space News post, "Telesat says low latency led to LEO constellation," the satellite industry "has and still does debate the significance of latency, depending on the applications served, but the growing number of LEO systems suggests a changing tide in that discussion."
According to the post, "low latency is a core tenant of OneWeb’s LEO-HTS constellation, which counts Intelsat among its investors. Similarly LeoSat argues that latency will be a discriminating factor for its constellation, as has corporate backer Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan."
The first two satellites in the Telesat constellation are expected to launch later this year, although the remainder have yet to be funded. The company expects to spend between $165Mln and $185Mln CDN on capital expenditures this year, even with the increase in LEO activities, but Goldberg told investors that the company still has a long way to go before the design of the satellite constellation is frozen and serious capital investment begins.
However, and as outlined in the July 27th, 2017 Space Intel Report post, "Telesat to investors: Dollars, not dreams, motivate our LEO constellation plan," the final decision to move forward with the constellation is dependent on "profit — and not a dream of global internet connectivity."
Goldberg made his remarks during the July 25th, 2017 quarterly conference call, which covered financial results for the three and six-month periods ended June 30, 2017. As outlined in the July 26th, 2017 More Space News post, "Telesat Reports Decline in Revenue for the Quarter Ending June 30, 2017," Telesat also reported consolidated revenues of $226Mln CDN, or a decline of 3% ($6Mln CDN) from the same period in 2016. 
For more, check out upcoming stories in the Commercial Space blog.
Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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