- Press Release
- Feb 3, 2023
MDA Announces On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Business Formation and Contract Awards for Spacecraft and First Life Extension Customer
SSL MDA Holdings Inc., a global communications and information company, today announced important milestones in its progress to bring transformational on-orbit satellite servicing to market. Space Infrastructure Services LLC (SIS), a new U.S. company, will commercialize sophisticated satellite servicing capabilities, including refueling. SIS will be majority owned by Finance Technology Leverage LLC (FTL), a global investment company headquartered in Silicon Valley, along with other U.S. investors, with SSL MDA Holdings maintaining a minority ownership share. Full financing for the venture is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.
“This new venture is designed to provide satellite operators with more options in fleet management,” noted Howard L. Lance, President and CEO of SSL MDA Holdings. “Both commercial and government satellite operators are looking for flexibility in managing capital expenditures and better ways to incorporate resiliency into their fleets. By combining our world-class capabilities in satellite manufacturing and robotics together, SSL MDA is uniquely positioned to enable this next-generation capability.”
On-orbit satellite servicing will provide operators with the ability to enhance the existing use of space assets through life extension, inspection, and repair. In addition, satellite servicing provides a capability to perform partial assembly in orbit, either augmenting existing satellites, replacing elements from modular satellites or constructing larger satellites freed from the mass and size constraints of launch.
Spacecraft Manufacturing Contract
SIS has awarded a contract to SSL, a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, to design and build the highly capable satellite servicing spacecraft vehicle. The vehicle will fully meet the specifications for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, which is designed to inspect, repair, and augment geosynchronous satellites and plans to include a refueling payload to extend the life of satellites that are low on propellant. The contract is valued at US$228 million (CA$305 million). SSL is working with the Naval Research Laboratory, The Charles Draper Laboratory and MDA robotics divisions in Brampton, Ontario and Pasadena, CA. to develop the servicer.
“FTL is committed to advancing space-related industries by supporting key technologies and markets,” said Ray Conley, Managing Partner of FTL. “On-orbit refueling and repairing of spacecraft is a critical step in humanity’s march toward a vibrant and exciting frontier. We believe that SSL has assembled the world’s premier team to make SIS the leaders in this vital new arena.”
First Commercial Customer
The company also announced that SES, a world leading satellite-enabled solutions provider, with more than 50 GEO satellites and 12 MEO satellites on orbit, has entered into an agreement for an initial life extension mission with options for further missions. Under this agreement, SES will be the first commercial customer to benefit from satellite refueling that can be called up as needed with minimal disruption to spacecraft operation.
“Satellite servicing on orbit will be essential to next-generation architectures for communications satellites,” said Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES. “We are pleased to be working on a refueling mission that may enable us to get more value out of satellites already on orbit. Refueling will be relatively quick and we will be able to maintain control of our spacecraft at all times.”
Once orbital demonstrations under the RSGS program are complete, SIS will receive the satellite servicing vehicle to operate throughout its lifetime. Steve Oldham, Senior Vice President Business Development with SSL MDA, is responsible for the SIS business.
SES is the world-leading satellite operator and the first to deliver a differentiated and scalable GEO-MEO offering worldwide, with more than 50 satellites in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) and 12 in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). SES focuses on value-added, end-to-end solutions in two key business units: SES Video and SES Networks. The company provides satellite communications services to broadcasters, content and internet service providers, mobile and fixed network operators, governments and institutions. SES’s portfolio includes the ASTRA satellite system, which has the largest Direct-to-Home (DTH) television reach in Europe, O3b Networks, a global managed data communications service provider, and MX1, a leading media service provider that offers a full suite of innovative digital video and media services. Further information available at: www.ses.com
Founded in 2013, Finance Technology Leverage (FTL) is a global venture finance company headquartered in Silicon Valley. The firm invests in biotechnology, energy, and space & technology infrastructure. FTL’s approach to project finance is as innovative as the companies it funds. Incorporating elements of venture capital, private equity, traditional banking, and insurance, FTL is able to develop capital structures and provide funding to projects that are otherwise deemed “impossible,” often because the capital is too large, the timeline is too long, or the perceived risk is too great. For more information, visit www.ftl.vc.
MDA is a global communications and information company providing operational solutions to commercial and government organizations worldwide.
MDA’s business is focused on markets and customers with strong repeat business potential, primarily in the Communications sector and the Surveillance and Intelligence sector. In addition, the Company conducts a significant amount of advanced technology development.
MDA’s established global customer base is served by more than 4,800 employees operating from 15 locations in the United States, Canada, and internationally.
The Company’s common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol TSX:MDA.
About SSL MDA Holdings
SSL MDA Holdings is a wholly owned subsidiary of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and serves as the operating company for all MDA businesses. SSL MDA Holdings has its headquarters in San Francisco.
Space Systems Loral (SSL) is a leading provider of commercial satellites with broad expertise to support satellite operators and innovative space related missions. The company designs and manufactures spacecraft for services such as direct-to-home television, video content distribution, broadband internet, mobile communications, and Earth observation. As a Silicon Valley innovator for 60 years, SSL’s advanced product line also includes state-of-the-art small satellites, and sophisticated robotics and automation solutions for remote operations. For more information, visit www.sslmda.com.