New Inmarsat satellite “could one day power flying taxis”


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British company Inmarsat is set to launch what it says is “the most sophisticated commercial communications satellite ever built”.

The satellite company’s I-6 F1 is scheduled to take off from Japan on Wednesday afternoon aboard a launcher built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The satellite is the largest commercial communications satellite ever launched, Inmarsat said.

It is the company’s first hybrid satellite, carrying two different communications network payloads, which will strengthen infrastructure networks such as maritime and aviation security, remote agriculture and emergency response, as well as as in-flight WiFi on planes and secure communications for heads of state.

The beauty is that these satellites have a minimum lifespan of around 15 years, so they will go into the 2040s and beyond.

Rajeev suri

Inmarsat chief executive Rajeev Suri told the PA news agency that the satellite was designed to stay in orbit for at least 15 years, and could potentially be used to support not only current technology, but also future innovations such as the networks needed to deploy flying taxis.

“What it will offer our customers is a lot more capacity compared to our previous generation satellites,” he said.

“And the beauty is that these satellites have a minimum lifespan of around 15 years, so they’ll go all the way to the 2040s and beyond, which means they’ll not only support applications and cases. use that we know and see today, but also new ones that we haven’t fully understood or even imagined, so it’s very exciting.

The I-6 F1 is the first of two satellites to be launched, and Mr. Suri said the network coverage provided could allow people to make video calls during a flight or stream movies from a merchant ship in the middle. of the ocean.

This coverage in remote areas could also be used to connect autonomous vehicles or flying taxis and the range of sensors used to drive them in the future, he said.

“It could be that when we have autonomous taxis in the air, they are taken care of in urban centers by 5G, but outside of urban areas that (satellite) could be the main way to connect.”

Mr Suri described Wednesday’s launch as a “multinational effort”, but which also represented “the best of British technology”.

“The satellites are being made in Stevenage and Portsmouth, but in concert with other teams like Airbus – so it was ultimately assembled in Toulouse,” he said.

“It will be monitored from our operations center in London and is being launched with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Kagoshima, Japan.”

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