Inmarsat’s I-6 F1, the commercial communications satellite, has begun its electric orbit raising (EOR) process to reach geostationary orbit, 36,000km above the Earth. The satellite was launched on December 22, 2021, aboard Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-2A rocket.
I-6 F1 is the first of two identical satellites Inmarsat ordered from Europe’s Airbus Defence and Space equipped with a hybrid L- and Ka-band payload. The second satellite, I-6 F2, is slated to launch on an undisclosed rocket next year.
In the hours following its launch, initial acquisition of telemetry from the satellite was received, followed by two further milestones completed on December 24: apogee thruster firing and solar array deployment – during which the solar arrays’ ‘wingspan’ exceeds that of a Boeing 767. Several days later, the 9-metre wide L-band reflector was deployed.
Each of these moves are crucial steps in the orbital manoeuvre, which slowly makes I-6 F1’s orbit slightly more circular to prepare the satellite for the electric orbit raising (EOR). The EOR process, which takes the satellite to its final location in geostationary orbit via an all-electric propulsion system, is expected to take around 200 days to complete.
Once I-6 F1 reaches its final position, approximately 36,000km (~22,500 miles) above the Earth, extensive testing will begin, before it enters into service in early 2023. Ground stations at Perth and Merredin in Western Australia will support I-6 F1.
Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “This launch marks Inmarsat’s newest technological leap forward as we maintain our strong commercial momentum and sector leadership. This satellite extends our world-leading mobile satellite communications services for our customers and partners, especially in the Indo Pacific region. I-6 F1 will play a crucial role in Inmarsat’s world-leading, dynamic mesh network Orchestra as we plot the course to further connectivity innovation for our customers. 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.”
I-6 F1 is Inmarsat’s first-ever hybrid L- and Ka-band satellite, and the first of seven planned for Inmarsat by 2024 in the company’s fully-funded technology roadmap. I-6 F1 will be followed by I-6 F2, which is currently in testing on the ground, prior to an early 2023 launch. The I-6s incorporate increased capacity and new technological advances for ELERA’s transformational L-band services, delivering an enhanced platform for customers looking to embrace next-wave technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things, thanks to dramatically increased network capacity and resilience.
The I-6s also offer additional Global Xpress (GX) high-speed broadband capacity, ensuring it continues to support the growing needs of commercial and government customers for data – especially in congested regions and hotspots. Adding to an existing global fleet of 14 geostationary satellites, the I-6s will extend Inmarsat’s commitment to mission-critical services while enabling a new generation of pioneering technologies to connect and sustain the world.