WASHINGTON — Rivada Space Networks is hoping to secure support from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank to finance a multibillion-dollar satellite constellation whose future also depends on an impending decision by international regulators.
Rivada announced in February a $2.4 billion contract with Terran Orbital to build a 300-satellite constellation to provide connectivity services. It subsequently signed a contract with SpaceX for 12 Falcon 9 launches to deploy those satellites.
Declan Ganley, chief executive of Rivada, said in February that the company has “funding commitments” from existing shareholders and new investors for the new constellation, but did not disclose how much funding it had secured or who the new investors were.
Speaking at the Financial Times’ “Investing in Space” event June 5, Ganley said the company planned to seek financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States to support the project.
“We will be using quite a lot of debt in this project,” he said. “We are in discussions with U.S. Ex-Im Bank.” Ex-Im is eligible to finance the system because Rivada Space Networks is based in Germany, although the parent Rivada company is American.
“Ex-Im financing and debt is extremely competitively priced, and I would say that is one element that gives us a bit of an edge,” he said. He did not disclose a timetable for obtaining the financing.
Ex-Im was, a decade ago, involved in financing several space projects, primarily the manufacturing and launch of commercial geostationary communications satellites. Those efforts stopped in 2015 when the bank’s authorization lapsed, which, along with a lack of a board quorum, prevented it from approving deals larger than $10 million. Congress restored the board’s quorum and passed a seven-year reauthorization in 2019, allowing it to resume financing of large deals.
Ganley declined to disclose the cost of the system or even the value of the SpaceX launch contract. SpaceX’s current list price for the Falcon 9 is $67 million, giving the contract a potential value of $804 million, although such multi-launch contracts often provide discounts.
He said the company has investors, “some of whom are very well known,” but declined to identify them. “We’re a private company so we don’t have to disclose these things and tell our competitors what we’re doing.”
Uncertainty about Rivada’s financing has raised questions about its ability to finance its Terran Orbital manufacturing contract. Terran Orbital said in a May 15 earnings call that it had received the first milestone payments from Rivada for that contract, but did not disclose the amount.
“We have an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] with them and we have to respect that,” Marc Bell, chief executive of Terran Orbital, said in the call. “They want to be in control of a lot of different things, including their capital source.”
Another source of uncertainty is Rivada’s spectrum filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that cover 576 satellites. Those ITU filings requires Rivada to deploy 10% of its full constellation by this September, a milestone the company acknowledges it cannot meet.
Rivada is seeking a waiver to that milestone requirement that the ITU is slated to consider at a meeting in late June and early July. Ganley said he was confident that the company would be granted the waiver because it has satellite and launch contracts in place. Regulators in Lichtenstein, where Rivada’s constellation is licensed, placed additional requirements to demonstrate it had funding, he stated. “We’re very confident we’re in good shape with that.”