Don’t call it a comeback; FlexExec’s been here for years. Still, after laying low for a while, Intelsat and Satcom Direct are launching a new push into the business jet connectivity market, with high hopes for improved WiFi service on board.
Following months of testing and more than 100 flight hours, the newest Satcom Direct Plane Simple Antenna System is officially qualified on the Intelsat network, able to deliver the latest iteration of FlexExec connectivity to jet owners. Combining a bespoke aircraft antenna and terminal solution with dedicated capacity from the Intelsat satellite constellation and a new set of pricing plans, the companies aim to deliver more and better Ku-band satellite connections to business jet owners across the globe.
Our operators are going to be delighted with the level of performance, cost effectiveness and convenience of the powerful system. We are excited to introduce this advanced technology as it will better support more inflight productivity, enhance leisure time, and enable improved operational management for more customers.– Chris Moore, President, Satcom Direct Business Aviation
The new terminal consists of just two components, a tail-mount antenna developed by QEST and two line-replaceable units. The minimal installation footprint reduces maintenance fees and provides an easy transition pathway to upgrade connectivity services.
Intelsat SVP Mobility Mark Rasmussen sees that consolidated architecture as a major step forward for operational reliability as well. “When you can integrate everything into it one unit that sits in the tail and one unit that sits in the cabin with a cable that connects the two, that just takes an enormous amount of negative possibilities out of the equation.”
But it is also still a mechanically steered antenna. While the industry continues to talk about a transition to electronically steered solutions that will support instant switching between satellites, conformal designs, and higher efficiency of transmission, the systems being certified and deployed are of the more traditional design. Rasmussen notes that the mechanical antenna “works really well,” something the ESAs are not yet able to deliver at the right price point.
And while the terminal proved it could connect to the Intelsat network last Fall, fine-tuning it to operate optimally was necessary to officially receive Intelsat qualification on the network. Rasmussen explains, “When you develop a terminal it’s really important that the terminal and the network be harmonized in a way to extract the max benefit and value from each component. That’s what we’ve been working on for the past couple of years with Satcom Direct, to really dial in the network and optimize how this terminal functions.”
Rebuilding the FlexExec network
FlexExec launched in 2019. That celebration was almost immediately tempered by the failure of Intelsat 29e, and the associated in-orbit capacity. It hit Astronics as well, with the company pulling back its plans to develop a terminal for the FlexExec platform.
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