A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the second in the Inmarsat-6 series of satellites, I-6 F2, from Cape Canaveral, Florida in Q1 2023. Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the first of the series, I-6 F1, in December 2021 and its fully electric propulsion system is now raising it to a geostationary orbital slot, 36,000km (22,000 miles) over the Indian Ocean. I-6 F1 will enter service in early 2023, following testing later this year, with I-6 F2 scheduled to follow into operation over the Atlantic later in 2023.
I-6 F1 and F2 are identical, with the payloads designed and manufactured in the UK at Airbus’s facilities in Stevenage and Portsmouth, prior to final assembly in Toulouse, France. The most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever built, they are each almost as large as a London double-decker bus and, when their solar arrays are opened to their full 47m (154 feet) width, they have a ‘wingspan’ similar to a Boeing 767.
The I-6s are Inmarsat’s first dual band satellites, carrying both ELERA (L-band) and Global Xpress (GX – Ka-band) payloads. The Inmarsat 6 series of satellites will play a crucial role in the ongoing growth of the company’s unique ORCHESTRA dynamic mesh network.
This revolutionary layered approach is designed to meet the accelerating bandwidth requirements of more diverse, demanding and ever more widely adopted applications in the commercial and government mobility markets. By drawing on the unique capabilities of each component, it will deliver high performance connectivity everywhere, while eliminating the longstanding industry-wide challenge of congestion at high demand hot spots, like busy ports, airports, sea canals and flight corridors, for good.
ORCHESTRA’s unprecedented combination of global coverage, unparalleled capacity and resilience will provide customers with a low-risk transition to next generation service capabilities, enabling new business models and use cases well into the future. For example:
Urban Air Mobility: Complete command and control and secure air traffic management capabilities for the safe operation of autonomous flying taxis and personal air transport.
Industrial IoT: Secure, device-neutral, private networks for large scale IoT deployments that can integrate, manage and monitor disparate sensors and devices via a single cloud environment.
Smart Cruise Ships: High speed, low latency passenger, crew and operational connectivity solutions for ferries and cruise ships, enabled through global satcom and on-board 5G networks.
Tactical Private Networks: Bespoke, high-speed, local area, temporary ‘sovereign’ networks to connect international aid, forces or government agencies in the field while securely relaying critical data home for analysis.
Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat CEO, said: “As our journey towards delivering the world’s first dynamic mesh network, Inmarsat ORCHESTRA, continues at pace, the launch of our I-6 family of satellites is a crucial step. As well as providing additional capacity for our ELERA and Global Xpress services for our customers into the 2030s, these incredibly sophisticated satellites also form an important piece of the puzzle for the exciting future ahead that ORCHESTRA represents. Combining terrestrial 5G with satellites in both low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit into Inmarsat ORCHESTRA, a single network of networks, demonstrates how we are at the leading edge of innovation, ensuring unparalleled capabilities for our customers for the long term.
“SpaceX is a valued launch partner for Inmarsat having successfully launched GX-4 in 2017. Their innovative reusable launch vehicle model supports Inmarsat’s commitment to drive sustainability throughout our supply chain and operations. The use of flight proven boosters and fairing for this launch demonstrate the drive to further sustainability in space operations.”
Details on the precise date for the launch will be provided once confirmed by Inmarsat and SpaceX.