WASHINGTON Rivada Space Networks hopes to enlist the support of the US Ex-Im Bank to finance a multibillion-dollar satellite constellation whose future also depends on an imminent decision by international regulators.
Rivada announced in February a $2.4 billion contract with Terran Orbital to build a constellation of 300 satellites to provide connectivity services. It later 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 on June 5, Ganley said the company plans to seek funding from the US Export-Import Bank to support the project.
We will be using a lot of debt in this project, he said. We are in discussions with US Ex-Im Bank. Ex-Im can fund the system because Rivada Space Networks is based in Germany, although parent company Rivada is American.
The Ex-Im financing and debt is extremely competitively priced, and I would say that gives us a bit of an edge, he said. She did not disclose a timetable for obtaining the funding.
Ex-Im was, a decade ago, involved in the financing of several space projects, mainly the production and launch of commercial geostationary communications satellites. Those efforts stalled in 2015 when the bank’s license expired, which, coupled with a lack of a board quorum, prevented it from approving deals larger than $10 million. Congress restored the board quorum and passed a new seven-year authorization in 2019, allowing it to resume financing large operations.
Ganley declined to disclose the cost of the system or even the value of SpaceX’s 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 well known, but declined to identify them. We are a private company, so we don’t have to disclose these things and tell our competitors what they were doing.
The uncertainty surrounding Rivadas’ funding has raised questions about its ability to finance its Terran Orbital production contract. Terran Orbital said in a May 15 earnings call that it received the first milestone payments from Rivada for that contract, but did not disclose the amount.
We have a non-disclosure agreement [non-disclosure agreement] with them and we have to respect that, Marc Bell, chief executive officer of Terran Orbital, said in the call. They want to be in control of many different things, including their source of capital.
Another source of uncertainty is Rivadas’ spectrum repositories at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) covering 576 satellites. Those ITU filings require Rivada to deploy 10 percent of its entire constellation by this September, a milestone the company acknowledges it can’t hit.
Rivada is seeking a waiver of that key requirement that the ITU is expected to consider at a meeting in late June and early July. Ganley said he was confident the company would be granted the waiver because it has outstanding launch and satellite contracts. Regulators in Lichtenstein, where Rivadas’ constellation is licensed, have placed additional requirements to prove he had funding, he said. We were very confident that we were in good shape with that.
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