Japan launches huge Inmarsat-6 F1 communications satellite into orbit


A huge, highly advanced commercial communications satellite just took to the skies.

The Inmarsat-6 F1 satellite launched atop a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket on Wednesday (Dec. 22) from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center at 10:32 a.m. EST (1532 GMT).

The 12,060-pound (5,470 kilograms) Inmarsat-6 F1 is the first of two “I-6” spacecraft that London-based company Inmarsat plans to loft to geostationary orbit, about 22,240 miles (35,790 kilometers) above our planet. 

A Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket launches the Inmarsat-6 F1 communications satellite from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on Dec. 22, 2021. (Image credit: MHI)

The I-6 pair “are the largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever launched,” Inmarsat representatives wrote in a fact sheet. “Inmarsat’s first dual-payload satellites, the I-6s feature both L-band (ELERA) and Ka-band (Global Xpress) payloads.”

The Inmarsat-6 F1 communications is seen during thermal vacuum testing in preparation for its December 2021 launch.  (Image credit: Inmarsat)

The I-6 satellites will be compatible with existing terminals for Inmarsat’s already-operational ELERA and Global Xpress networks, company representatives said.

The H-2A is Japan’s primary medium-lift launcher. The expendable rocket has sent many prominent payloads skyward over the years, including Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission (in 2014) and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars orbiter (in 2020).

Wednesday’s launch had originally been targeted for Tuesday (Dec. 21), but concerns about possible bad weather caused a one-day delay.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 22 with news of successful liftoff.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook

Source: space.com

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