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Relativity Space to launch satellites for Telesat

Relativity Terran 1 liftoff
An artist’s conception shows Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket lifting off from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Relativity Space Illustration)

Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis is a veteran of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — and in a sense, you could say that Ellis and Blue Origin are on the same team once again.

Today, the startup that Ellis co-founded in Seattle and moved to Los Angeles is making its first announcement of a launch contract, and it’s a big one: Relativity Space will provide multiple launches for Telesat, the Canadian telecom giant that’s planning to put scores of satellites in low Earth orbit to deliver global broadband connectivity.

“This is the first time Telesat or any major global satellite operator has selected a completely venture-backed aerospace startup for launch services,” Ellis told GeekWire.

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Blue Origin will launch Telesat’s internet satellites

Bezos, Goldberg, Smith
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith flank Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg, who’s holding a model of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. (Blue Origin via Twitter)

Canada’s biggest satellite operator, Telesat, has signed agreements with Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture and Alphabet’s Loon aerial telecommunications venture to support its future global broadband satellite constellation.

Blue Origin has agreed to provide multiple launches on its yet-to-be-built New Glenn rocket to get Telesat’s spacecraft into low Earth orbit, or LEO. Loon, meanwhile, will furnish a cloud-based data delivery platform that’s based on the system it currently uses to deliver mobile services via a fleet of high-altitude balloons.

Today’s announcements raise Telesat’s profile in a market battle that also involves California-based SpaceX and the international OneWeb consortium.

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FCC OKs plan for 7,500 SpaceX satellites

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

The Federal Communications Commission today gave the go-ahead for SpaceX to operate a constellation of more than 7,500 broadband access satellites in very low Earth orbit — and also gave the go-ahead for other satellite constellations chasing similar markets.

SpaceX’s plan to put 7,518 V-band satellites in 215-mile-high (345.6-kilometer-high) orbits meshes with a complementary plan to put more than 4,400 satellites in higher orbits for Ku- and Ka-band service. Last week, SpaceX filed an amended application seeking to put 1,584 of those satellites into 342-mile orbits instead of the originally specified 715-mile orbits.

The different orbital altitudes are meant to provide a mix of wide-angle and tightly focused transmission beams for global broadband access. SpaceX could start offering satellite internet services as soon as 2020, if all goes according to plan and the company sticks to its launch schedule.

SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash., has the lead role in satellite development for the Starlink constellation. The first Starlink prototypes were launched in February.

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SpaceX puts Telstar 18V satellite in orbit

SpaceX launch
The Telstar 18V satellite separates from the Falcon 9 second stage, as seen in a rocketcam view. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX launched its second heavyweight Telstar telecommunications satellite from Florida tonight, and brought the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster down for a landing on a drone ship hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The mission to put the 15,600-pound Telstar 18 Vantage satellite into geostationary transfer orbit for Canadian-based Telesat was nearly a carbon copy of SpaceX’s successful Telstar 19V launch in July, with a bit of added suspense due to the weather.

Concerns about thunderstorms and lightning near the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station delayed the launch for 77 minutes, but the Falcon 9 rose without a hitch at 12:45 a.m. ET Sept. 10 (9:45 p.m. PT Sept. 9).

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SpaceX launches heaviest telecom satellite

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from its Florida launch pad, sending the Telstar 19V satellite into space. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket executed a textbook launch to put the heavy-duty Telstar 19 Vantage telecommunications satellite into orbit tonight and bring back the first-stage booster for an at-sea landing.

The successful mission kicked off what’s expected to be a rapid-fire series of three liftoffs in less than two weeks’ time.

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