Inmarsat launches sixth-generation comms satellite

Inmarsat Services Ltd

Tuesday, 28 February, 2023

Inmarsat launches sixth-generation comms satellite

Telecommunications company Inmarsat has announced the successful launch of its I-6 F2 satellite, which took off on 17 February at 10.59 EST from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch saw Inmarsat’s sixth-generation communications spacecraft travel up and east across the Atlantic Ocean towards the west coast of Africa, reaching a top speed of almost 40,000 km/h. The satellite will now spend several months travelling to its geostationary orbit, 36,000 km above the equator, using its onboard electric propulsion system. It is scheduled to connect its first customers in 2024, following rigorous in-orbit technical testing.

I-6 F2 follows its ‘twin’, I-6 F1, which launched from Japan in late 2021 and is scheduled to connect its first customers later this year. They have been described as the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever and are expected to provide a significant upgrade in Inmarsat’s global coverage services for at least the next 15 years.

The I-6 satellites will add further capabilities to Inmarsat’s ORCHESTRA communications network; a global, multidimensional, dynamic mesh network that is claimed to have the highest capacity for mobility worldwide. ORCHESTRA enables Inmarsat’s partners and customers to keep pace with their growing data demands and enables them to empower emerging technologies in the future, like autonomous vehicles or flying taxis.

Inmarsat CEO Rajeev Suri said, “The I-6 journey began six years ago, with our experts sketching out an ambitious concept of two hybrid satellites that would add significant additional capacity and capabilities for our two worldwide constellations — the high-speed broadband Global Xpress network and our narrowband ELERA.

“This launch is only the start of the largest investment program in our history, all contributing towards the development of our ORCHESTRA vision. The I-6 spacecraft will be joined by a further five major-scale satellites by 2025. Each of these has the capability to deliver focused connectivity over a larger region and come with certainty — in resilience, in robustness, in service quality — that is unique to Inmarsat.

“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.”

Image caption: Launch of Inmarsat-6 F2 satellite from Cape Canaveral launch pad SLC-40.

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