Inmarsat has launched what it says is the world’s most advanced commercial communications satellite.
The I-6 F2 satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket on Feb. 17, adding to Inmarsat’s global fleet of 15 geostationary satellites.
The launch follows the launch of the I-6 F1 satellite in December 2021 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan.
Designed for an operational life of 15 years, the I-6 satellites will power Inmarsats next-generation ORCHESTRA communications network, providing greater capacity and coverage, speeds and connectivity solutions to meet growing data demands from maritime and aviation customers.
Measuring the size of a London double-decker bus, the I-6 satellites are said to be the world’s most technologically advanced commercial communications satellites ever launched. They are also Inmarsat’s first hybrid satellites, featuring both L-band (ELERA) narrowband and Ka-band (Global Xpress) high-speed broadband communications payloads.
Inmarsat says this layered approach will help to tackle the longstanding industry-wide challenge of congestion at high demand hot spots, like busy ports, airports, sea canals and flight corridors.
I-6 F1 is scheduled to connect its first customers later this year followed by the I-6 F2 in 2024. Another five “GX” satellites will be launched by 2025.
The I-6 F-2 satellite will now spend several months traveling to its geostationary orbit 36,000km above the Equator using its onboard electric propulsion system.
“I want to extend my profound thanks and appreciation to our dedicated employees and partners who have made this launch a reality,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat. “Our I-6 programme has been six years in the making. [This] launch marked another milestone as we revolutionize global communications at scale.”
“Of course, this is not the end. Along with the I-6s, we will add five more advanced spacecraft to our fleet by 2025 as part of our fully funded technology roadmap. That will allow us to continue to meet our customers’ needs into the 2030s and beyond, while enabling new technologies for a smarter, more connected Earth,” Suri added.
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