Inmarsat has chosen launch services for its sixth generation of satellites, proving its commitment to maritime safety communications. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been contracted to launch the first of the Inmarsat-6 fleet, while Airbus Defence and Space is building the satellite.
Mitsubishi plans to launch the Inmarsat-6 satellite in 2020 using its H-IIA launch vehicle. The satellite will have a dual payload, each supporting L-band and Ka-band (Global Xpress) services. Both bands of frequencies will support Fleet Xpress ship communications and maritime safety services.
There will be at least two more satellites in the Inmarsat-6 constellation with the Ka-band supplementing existing coverage from the recently introduced Inmarsat-5 constellation, said Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout. He said this should enable shipping to apply internet of things technology on vessels and introduce new applications, such as real-time remote monitoring and video streaming.
The L-band payload will be required for growing demand for connectivity in smaller vessels that can use Inmarsat’s Fleet One service. Inmarsat Maritime vice president for safety and security, Peter Broadhurst told Marine Electronics & Communications that Inmarsat-6 satellites will replace those in the ageing Inmarsat-3 constellations, which are scheduled to be taken out of service from 2020.
The launch announcement represents Inmarsat’s commitment to maritime safety at a time when IMO will be assessing FleetBroadband L-band services for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), which is mandatory under Solas. Existing GMDSS provision is on the Inmarsat-3 satellites. However, Inmarsat’s capability to provide an enhanced version on FleetBroadband will be assessed in October and November.
Mr Broadhurst said the International Mobile Satellite Organisation (IMSO) will assess the reliability of FleetBroadband in October. “IMSO’s assessment paper then needs to be submitted by the end of November for the Navigation, Communications, Search and Rescue subcommittee at IMO to review in February 2018,” he explained.
Results from this subcommittee will be presented to the Maritime Safety Committee in the middle of 2018.