World’s most sophisticated commercial communications satellite launched successfully

Source: press release, 23 December 2021

I-6 F1 launch at JAXA Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
I-6 F1 launch at JAXA Tanegashima Space Center, Japan (photo: Inmarsat/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)

Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications confirms the successful launch of its first Inmarsat-6 satellite, I-6 F1, by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

The Inmarsat-6s (I-6) are Inmarsat’s first ever hybrid L- and Ka-band satellites, incorporating increased capacity and new technological advances for ELERA’s transformational L-band services alongside additional Global Xpress (GX) high-speed broadband capacity. Adding to an existing global fleet of 14 geostationary satellites they extend Inmarsat’s commitment to mission critical services while enabling a new generation of pioneering technologies to connect and sustain the world. This launch is the first of seven planned for Inmarsat by 2024 in the company’s fully funded technology roadmap.

Launch success was confirmed by MHI at 15:59 UK time on 22 December following satellite separation from the H-IIA launch vehicle, with successful signal acquisition soon afterwards.

The most sophisticated commercial communications satellite ever launched, 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 metre wide L-band reflector that will be deployed over the coming days. The satellite will then be raised to geostationary orbit (GEO) approximately 36,000 km (~22,500 miles) above the Earth via its all-electric propulsion system and then undergo a thorough and extensive testing programme. I-6 F1 will enter service in 2023. Ground stations in Western Australia will support I-6 F1.

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, says, “This launch marks Inmarsat’s newest technological leap forward as we maintain our strong commercial momentum and sector leadership. 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 I-6 satellites demonstrate Inmarsat’s ongoing investment and commitment to its global leadership in L-band satellite services to 2040 and beyond for the benefit of mobility customers worldwide. They deliver an enhanced platform for those looking to embrace the next wave of world-changing technologies that ELERA enables, including the rapidly growing Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT) satellite connectivity market segment, by providing dramatically increased network capacity and resilience.

These new capabilities from the I-6s mean greater capacity and coverage, greater speeds and a greater portfolio of innovative connectivity solutions for 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.

The launch of the I-6s is further evidence of the momentum underpinning Inmarsat’s business and technology leadership in global mobility communications. I-6 plays an integral role in the reliable GEO infrastructure that underpins Inmarsat ORCHESTRA – the world’s first network that will combine GEO, highly elliptical orbit (HEO), low Earth orbit (LEO) and terrestrial 5G into one harmonious solution.