Monday, January 14, 2019

Still No Plan for SSL or GEOSats, But Maxar's CEO Howard Lance Has Resigned. Here's What it Means for Canada's MDA

          By Chuck Black

CEO Howard Lance has resigned from his job at Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies effective immediately and been replaced by Daniel Jablonsky, one of his Maxar colleagues who, since October 2017, has also acted as the president of the Westminster CO based Maxar subsidiary DigitalGlobe.

New Maxar CEO Jablonsky. Photo c/o Space Intel Report.

Jablonsky will also now sit on the Maxar board of directors, where he will join other DigitalGlobe alumni, including retired US General Howell M. Estes III, the current chairman of the Maxar board (who has also been the chair of the DigitalGlobe board since 2011) and Nick S. Cyprus, the chairman of the Maxar audit committee, who was also previously a director of DigitalGlobe.

The circling of the Maxar wagons around the DigitalGlobe subsidiary and it's lucrative US government Earth imaging contracts is simply the final, last ditch effort to keep the wheels twirling on the Maxar bus.

The DigitalGlobe assets will be protected. But the other Maxar business units, including Palo Alta CA based SSL and Brampton ON based MDA are far less central to Maxar's future.

As outlined in the January 14th, 2019 Space News post, "Maxar replaces CEO Howard Lance with DigitalGlobe president," Maxar has been trying for some time to figure out what to do with SSL manufacturing line for large communications satellites. According to the post:
Maxar sold off some of SSL’s valuable Silicon Valley real estate in early December and said it intended to decide by year’s end whether it would sell or shutdown its geostationary satellite manufacturing portion of SSL.
But so far nothing has moved forward, which tends to suggest that the real value of SSL, given the complete collapse of the large satellite market, is almost entirely wrapped up in its property holdings.

If this turns out to be true, its certainly bad news for Maxar, which will almost certainly need to try and unload SSL for whatever it can get.


As for Canada's MDA subsidiary, Maxar executives have always insisted that it's only as good as the sales it can generate from the Canadian government.

Since, as outlined in the January 1st, 2019 post, "2018: The Year in Space for Canada," MDA wasn't able to pull another "3rd generation Canadarm" sale out of the Federal government last year, MDA's market value might end up being less than anyone thought.

But a second measure of value could perhaps be MDA's collection of patents relating to the original construction of Canadarm based technology.

As outlined in the December 16th, 2016 post, "MDA says No Sale of Canadarm Technology to the US Government in NASA RESTORE-L, DARPA RSGS or "Any Other" Project," there is real concern on both sides of the border over whether or not MDA can even use components of Canadarm technology for independent NASA projects without the active participation and approval of the Canadian government.

An answer to this question of who owns the Canadarm patents will go a long way towards defining the true value of Canada's Maxar assets.

If Maxar can't move forward with high profile programs like the NASA RESTORE-L satellite servicing mission or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) project without the active participation of the Canadian government, the Canada's MDA might remain a Maxar asset.

Otherwise, all bets are off on MDA's future in Canada.
Chuck Black.
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Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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