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Inmarsat agrees contract for 6th generation satellites with Airbus

Unlike the I-5 (pictured), I-6 will feature both L-band and Ka-band payloads Unlike the I-5 (pictured), I-6 will feature both L-band and Ka-band payloads

Inmarsat has agreed a deal with Airbus Defence and Space to build the first two satellites for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation fleet, which will provide the next generation of L-band services after FleetBroadband while also including a Ka-band payload.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The contract, valued in the region of $600 million for construction of the two satellites, will see Airbus deliver the first satellite, Inmarsat-6 F1 (I-6 F1), by 2020.

The sixth-generation fleet will be the first in Inmarsat's history to feature a dual-payload, which the company says will represent a major change in the capabilities and capacity of its L-band services.

“The Inmarsat-6 constellation confirms our continued commitment to delivering advanced L-band services for decades to come and to maximising the growth opportunities we see in this spectrum,” said Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat.

“The new satellites will provide significantly greater L-band capacity and will be capable of supporting a new generation of more advanced services.”

“The Ka-band co-payload adds depth to the breadth of the unique capabilities of our Global Xpress (GX) constellation, which now spans the world. We are confident that demand for GX will deliver incremental revenue opportunities, more than justifying our further investment in extending the capabilities of our Ka-band services.”

The Inmarsat-6 (I-6) satellites will be based on Airbus Defence and Space’s Eurostar platform in its E3000e variant, which exclusively uses electric propulsion for orbit raising. This will allow the satellite to benefit from a reduction in mass compared with traditional systems, creating the opportunity for this dual payload mission.

I-6 F1 is designed to remain in service for a minimum of 15 years.

News of this contract comes as Inmarsat has confirmed that it has now begun the global Commercial Service Introduction (CSI) for its new GX Ka-band constellation on the three currently orbiting satellites.

A fourth GX satellite – Inmarsat-5 F4 – is currently completing construction and testing by Boeing in California. This satellite is now likely to be launched in the second of half of 2016 in order to provide additional GX network capacity.{/mprestriction}

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