Inmarsat’s sixth generation satellite fleet completes first launch

Inmarsat has completed the launch of its first sixth-generation satellite (I-6), a dual payload Ka- and L-band satellite set to offer a major boost in capacity for Fleet Xpress users once integrated into the existing network.

The new satellite, manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space, was launched from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries onboard its H-IIA launch vehicle on December 22nd (early on December 23rd local Japanese time).

Separation from the rocket was completed successfully and initial communication was initiated with the satellite for telemetry acquisition approximately three hours after lift-off.

After completion of the initial launch programme, the satellite will begin an extended phase of testing and positioning manoeuvres to bring the I-6 to its final geostationary orbital position (GEO) over the Indian Ocean in readiness to begin commercial services in 2023.

The new I-6 alone will deliver more capacity than the entire first-generation Global Xpress Ka-band satellite fleet (the I-5s), while also doubling the power of Inmarsat’s previous generation of L-band satellites (the I-4s) to allow more data to be carried over the same amount of bandwidth.

Inmarsat plans to introduce two I-6 satellites, with a second launch expected to take place in 2022. These two I-6 units form part of an extensive technology upgrade roadmap that will see the company launch a total of seven satellites by 2024, two of which will operate in a highly elliptical orbit (HEO) to provide polar coverage for the first time.

The new satellites also form an integral part of Inmarsat’s upcoming ORCHESTRA and ELERA plans.

The ORCHESTRA hybrid network will leverage the higher capacity Ka-band payloads and integrate with terrestrial 5G connectivity and an additional planned low earth orbit (LEO) constellation (not included in the current seven-satellite launch schedule) to offer the best available connection speed to users. ELERA meanwhile is envisioned as a global internet of things (IoT) network that will use Inmarsat’s L-band narrowband capabilities to deliver data for a variety of machine-to-machine applications.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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