Mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat has agreed with Airbus Defence and Space to deliver its I-6 F2 satellite via a series of ‘stepping stones’ across the Atlantic using Airbus’ A300-600ST (Super Transporter).

The aircraft is better known as Beluga, due to its similarity with the species of whale.

The journey will see the satellite leave its testing facility in Toulouse and make several stops for refuelling before reaching the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Spacecraft experts will then have approximately three weeks for final testing and integration of spacecraft with the rocket before I-6 F2 launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in February.

Inmarsat’s two I-6 satellites (the first was launched in December 2021) are the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever built. They will provide communications coverage for more than 15 years from their geostationary orbit: 36,000km above the Equator.

It will be only the second time that Airbus will transport a satellite to Florida this way since launching its new Airbus Beluga Transport service in early 2022.

Building, testing, and launching

Rajeev Suri, CEO, Inmarsat, said: “Building, testing, and launching a satellite is complex enough and I want to thank our talented experts at Inmarsat and Airbus, who have tackled the new transportation challenges faced by I-6 F2.”

“This launch is another step on our journey in delivering the world’s first multi-dimensional network, Inmarsat ORCHESTRA. It will build on our existing space-based capabilities to allow us to provide a transformational growth in capacity and new features for our customers into the 2030s and beyond. That means it will be able to power emerging use cases like autonomous vehicles or flying taxis, for example, as we build a better, smarter, more connected world.”

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