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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.