TAMPA, Fla. — International regulators have waived a requirement for Rivada Space Networks to launch 10% of its proposed 576 satellites by September, boosting plans to fund the multibillion-dollar connectivity constellation.
Rivada expects to start deploying commercial satellites in 2025 under contracts with manufacturer Terran Orbital and launcher SpaceX, easily missing the first deployment deadline under International Telecommunication Union (ITU) rules.
However, Rivada announced July 5 that the ITU granted a waiver for this milestone after reviewing evidence of the funding, manufacturing, and launch contracts in place for its non-geostationary orbit network (NGSO).
Amid a flood of applications for new NGSO constellations, the ITU adopted deployment milestone rules in late 2019 to help separate those truly planning to deploy satellites from others more interested in hoarding spectrum.
Rivada’s waiver is a positive sign for others hoping for leniency as pandemic-related supply chain issues drag on the space industry, such as Canada’s Telesat, which continues to seek funds for an NGSO constellation running six years behind schedule.
“A shortage of launch capacity and delays in technology development have been significant challenges to overcome in order to deploy these constellations in the stipulated timeframe,” said Rainer Schnepfleitner, director of Liechtenstein’s telecoms regulator, which licensed Rivada’s constellation.
Two deployment hurdles remain
Rivada has two spectrum filings lodged with the ITU, an affiliate of the United Nations, each covering 288 satellites.
The venture must deploy 50% of its total constellation, or 288 satellites, by mid-2026 under the second ITU deployment milestone that remains in place, or risk losing priority Ka-band spectrum. All 576 satellites must be deployed by mid-2028.
Rivada head of corporate communications Brian Carney said the venture is also on track to launch four precursor satellites next year, which would test user terminals and networking protocols and not form part of the operational constellation.
He said negotiations with debt providers are ongoing to fully fund the constellation, which includes a $2.4 billion contract announced in February with Florida-headquartered Terran Orbital to build the 500-kilogram satellites.
Declan Ganley, CEO of U.S. wireless technology company Rivada Networks, the parent of Germany-based Rivada Space Networks, recently said the venture hopes to secure support from U.S. Ex-Im Bank, the country’s export credit agency.
While the ITU required Rivada to show it has sufficient funding commitments for the constellation, it did not require the plans to be fully funded with money in the bank.