I-6 F1 lifting off from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 15:32 UK time on 22 December 2021. Image courtesy Inmarsat

Inmarsat Launches ‘World’s Most Sophisticated Communications Satellite’

Mike Schuler
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December 28, 2021

Global satellite communications company Inmarsat has launched its first next-generation satellite, known as the I-6.

Billed as the most sophisticated commercial communications satellite ever launched, the I-6 F1 is the first of seven new fully-funded Inmarsat satellites to be launched by 2024. The satellite was launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries from Japan at 15:32 UK time on 22 December 2021.

The Inmarsat-6s (I-6) are Inmarsat’s first ever dual band hybrid L- and Ka-band satellites, with increased capacity and new technological advances for ELERA’s transformational L-band services alongside additional Global Xpress (GX) high-speed broadband capacity.

I-6 F1 is comparable in size to a London double-decker bus, with a deployed solar arrays ‘wingspan’ similar to a Boeing 767 and a 9 meter wide L-band reflector. Using its electrical propulsion system, the satellite will be raised to geostationary orbit (GEO) approximately ~22,500 miles above the Earth where it will undergo testing before entering service in 2023. Ground stations in Western Australia will support I-6 F1.

“This launch marks Inmarsat’s newest technological leap forward as we maintain our strong commercial momentum and sector leadership,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat. “It gives me great pleasure and pride to confirm the successful launch of I-6 F1. This satellite extends our world leading mobile satellite communications services for our customers and partners, especially in the Indo Pacific region. My warmest thanks and congratulations go to the Inmarsat team that delivered flawlessly on this project as well as our launch provider Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and our satellite manufacturing partner Airbus Defence and Space.”

The company says the I-6 satellites demonstrate Inmarsat’s ongoing investment and commitment to its global leadership in L-band satellite services to 2040 and beyond. The satellites will support the rapidly growing Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT) satellite connectivity market segment by providing “dramatically increased” network capacity and resilience.

These new capabilities mean greater capacity and coverage, greater speeds and solutions for Inmarsat’s ELERA and Global Xpress (GX) networks. The I-6 satellites, like all Inmarsat ELERA and GX spacecraft, are backward-compatible with existing terminals, ensuring that current and future customers will continue to benefit from new advances.

The I-6s also substantially increase the effective capacity of the network available to ELERA customers with double the beams, 50% more spectrum per beam and double the power of the I-4s, matching customer demand as and where it is needed. They also add further depth in Inmarsat’s global coverage for even greater assurance to customers of the redundancy and resilience of Inmarsat’s world-leading L-band network.

The GX6 payloads hosted on the I-6s add targeted high capacity to Inmarsat’s high-speed GX network, ensuring it continues to support the growing need of commercial and government customers for data, particularly in congested regions or hotspots where it is needed most.

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