An American subsidiary, Telesat U.S. Services, of Canadian global FSS operator Telesat was awarded a satellite production contract on 14 October. The contract was handed down by the US DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a military technology research institution.

Under the contract the Telesat subsidiary will supply DARPA with two in-orbit units in 2021. These will be part of DARPA’s LEO Blackjack programme to demonstrate the how a hybrid military/commercial network can work for US military users. This immediate contract has a value of US$18.3 million. There is the potential of up to US$175.6 million in follow-on contracts if DARPA were to solely choose Telesat to supply further units.

The Telesat satellites will need to be capable of low-latency data transmission, for which they will be equipped with two optical inter-satellite link (ISL) payloads. These ISL payloads must be able to communicate with other Blackjack spacecraft developed by other providers. The satellites will also carry an additional military payload, the purpose of which has not been revealed.

Following the award from DARPA, Telesat announced that it would purchase two Airbus Arrow buses. These platforms will be modified for the desired mission and are expected to weigh circa-200 kg once finished. The Arrow bus is better known as the base of the OneWeb Satellites-built OneWeb constellation. Airbus owns 50 per cent of OneWeb Satellites and was involved in the designing process for the Arrow bus.