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Airbus tests Inmarsat’s giant satellite in 10m vacuum chamber

Inmarsat I-6 F2 test.jpg

Airbus has put Inmarsat’s latest geostationary satellite into thermal vacuum testing, in preparation for launch in early 2023.

Inmarsat’s I-6 F2 (pictured; Airbus picture) will operate from a geostationary orbit, 36,000km above the equator, and provide service until the 2050s.

It and its twin will be part of the company’s dynamic mesh network, Orchestra. F1, the first of the series, was launched from Japan in December 2021 and is now on a 200-day path to its final orbit.

Airbus will test F2 between temperatures of -173° C to 120° C in a 10m high chamber, including rapid cycling and 30-day temperature plateaus to simulate the conditions of space.

Inmarsat says the two satellites in the I-6 series will be the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever.

Each will have a 9m-diameter L-band antenna and nine multi-beam Ka-band antennas. The provide more than 8,000 channels with a dynamic power allocation of more than 200 spot beams in L-band.

Inmarsat uses electric power to put the I-6s into final orbit. Sales director Dimitri Zafiriadis said after I-6 F1 was launched: “All electric satellites take longer to get to in-orbit service, but stay in orbit for much longer – approximately 35 years – which is a nice trade-off.”

US company Viasat is proposing to buy Inmarsat for US$7.3 billion. The deal is waiting for regulatory approval.