Inmarsat, the global, mobile satellite communications heavily involved in the marine industry, has announced the successful launch of its latest I-6 F2 spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station aboard a flight proven Space X Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch saw I-6 F2 lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., reaching a top speed of almost 40,000km/h as it left Earth above central Africa. The satellite will now spend several months travelling to its geostationary orbit, 36,000km above the Equator, using its onboard electric propulsion system. It is scheduled to connect its first customers in 2024, following rigorous in-orbit technical testing.  

I-6 F2 follows its “twin”, I-6 F1, which launched from Japan in late 2021. They are the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever and will provide a revolutionary upgrade in Inmarsat’s global coverage services for at least the next 15 years, Inmarsat officials said. I-6 F1 is scheduled to connect its first customers later this year.

The new I-6 satellites add further capabilities to Inmarsat’s ORCHASTRA communications network; a global, multi-dimensional mesh network that will redefine connectivity at scale with the highest capacity for mobility worldwide. ORCHESTRA enables Inmarsat’s partners and customers to keep pace with their growing data demands and enables them to empower emerging technologies in the future, like autonomous vehicles or flying taxis.  

The launch was seen live by Scouts Simon Shemetilo, from London, and Craig Alexander, from Reading, who had a VIP viewing experience to the event. The two were chosen by Astronaut Tim Peake after Scouts from all over the UK entered a competition hosted by Inmarsat and the association. Simon and Craig were judged as submitting the best entries for how satellites can improve life on Earth in the future.

“I want to extend my profound thanks and appreciation to our dedicated employees and partners who have made this launch a reality,” Rajeev Suri, CEO, Inmarsat, said in a statement announcing the launch. “Our I-6 programme has been six years in the making. Last week’s launch marked another milestone as we revolutionize global communications at scale.”

Along with the I-6s, Inmarsat will add five more advanced satellites to its fleet by 2025 as part of its fully funded technology roadmap. That will allow Inmarsat to continue to meet its customers’ needs into the 2030s and beyond, Suri said.