Inmarsat continues its GX network expansion plans, announcing another pair of payloads to improve the network’s coverage area. While billed as a global Ka-band constellation polar regions are left out today given the traditional Geosynchrous orbits of the satellites. To address that challenge in the Arctic Inmarsat will provision a pair of payloads on Space Norway’s Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM). The satellites are to be built by Northrup Grumman, with launch expected on a SpaceX rocket in late 2022 and enter service in 2023.
The satellites will operate in a highly elliptical orbit, providing coverage north of 65 degrees. For the GX network this means the aviation, maritime and IoT markets will see a significant improvement in both coverage and capacity in the Arctic. For flights traversing the pole the GX Aviation system will no longer drop out of service during that part of the trip.
In the past month alone, we have announced five significant new payloads, raising the bar for industry investment and marking an unprecedented step-change in inflight mobile broadband capabilities for airlines and business aviation.– Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation
The two payloads, dubbed GX10A and GX10B will bring the total count of Global Xpress Ka-band systems managed by Inmarsat to twelve. Just five weeks ago the company announced three new dedicated satellites – GX7, GX8 & GX9 – that will deliver a step-change in technology, as well as huge increases in the capacity available on the network. They are expected to enter service from 2023. Moreover, the new design for the next generation of GX satellites is smaller and easier to manufacture, giving Inmarsat greater flexibility in producing additional payloads as market demands warrant. These new payloads are to be built under the same principles as those three satellites. An Inmarsat spokesman confirmed that “the Arctic payloads will be fully dynamically programmable, able to focus coverage where its needed.”
After a multi-year dedicated effort, we are both proud and happy to have closed customer agreements with Inmarsat and with the Norwegian and US militaries. This is an exciting collaborative effort, which ensures a cost effective solution for all parties. Now we are eager to start the real work of building the satellites and the ground stations. We look forward to providing the world’s first and only mobile broadband service in the Artic region; something which has long been an important objective for the Norwegian authorities.– ASBM Program Director Kjell-Ove Skare
The ASBM satellites will serve a trio of partners, along with the core mission of delivering high-speed connectivity to Norway’s remote northern regions. In addition to Inmarsat, the ASBM will carry US Government payloads to augment its Wideband Global Satcom system of 10 satellites. X-band payloads for the Norwegian military are also included in the design. The shared ride approach reduces costs for each party involved. The Norwegian government committed $100mm to the effort; details of the costs for other parties are not published.