LONDON — Globalstar has contracted SpaceX to launch Apple-backed satellites in 2025 to replenish its low Earth orbit (LEO) connectivity constellation.
The operator said in an Aug. 30 regulatory filing it will pay a total $64 million to launch the first set of satellites ordered last year from MDA, which is using Rocket Lab to supply chassis for the spacecraft.
While the company did not give further details about the launch agreement, its $327 million contract with MDA covered 17 satellites for deliveries anticipated in 2025. The manufacturing contract also includes an option for up to nine additional satellites at $11.4 million each.
Apple has agreed to reimburse Globalstar for 95% of the constellation, including manufacturing and launch costs. The smartphone giant is also lending Globalstar $252 million to help cover upfront costs.
In return, Apple would use 85% of the new network’s capacity to upgrade satellite services launched last year for its latest iPhone, which can connect with one of Globalstar’s 24 existing satellites for emergency services when cell towers are out of reach.
Globalstar would use the rest of the capacity for its legacy services, including connectivity for specialized satellite phones and for connecting monitoring and tracking devices.
SpaceX is also looking to provide connectivity directly to mass market phones, using the Starlink broadband constellation it operates in LEO.
The company is seeking regulatory permission in the United States for more spectrum that could be used for a mobile Starlink satellite service, notably including frequencies in the 1.6 GHz and 2.4 GHz spectrum bands used by Globalstar.
Globalstar is also developing a separate business to lease out part of its spectrum for private terrestrial networks.
Analysts including Mike Crawford of B. Riley see the operator’s Band 53 frequencies, part of S-band, as one of its highest-value assets as talks continue to with regulators and partners worldwide to unlock its potential.
Globalstar announced Aug. 29 that David Kagan was retiring as CEO effective immediately to make way for Paul Jacobs, who founded wireless technology specialist XCOM Labs and is a former executive chair of Qualcomm, which builds chips for smartphones and other applications.
Multiple former Qualcomm senior executives are also joining Globalstar, including a former chief technology officer and a former chief scientist for the chipmaker.
In exchange for shares in Globalstar, the satellite operator has entered into a strategic perpetual licensing agreement with XCOM for exclusive access to all of its cellular technology and intellectual property.
Globalstar is also getting exclusive access to XCOM’s peer-to-peer connectivity technologies, Crawford noted, which he said could have applications across cellular and satellite devices.