Inmarsat, the mobile satellite communications services provider, is making progress towards the launch of the first of its Ka-band satellites, which will be used for broadband services.
The company’s first fully assembled Inmarsat-5 satellite has successfully completed mechanical testing at Boeing’s manufacturing facility in El Segundo, California, USA.
The satellite, one of three that will comprise Inmarsat’s new Global Xpress Ka-band broadband network, will move to the next phase of testing as preparations continue for launch later this year.
The recently completed tests included a simulated launch, which was designed to expose the spacecraft to the environmental conditions it will be subjected to during the actual launch.
‘This is a very important and significant milestone in the construction and test cycle of the spacecraft as we progress with the test program and move forward to launch day,’ said Franco Carnevale, Inmarsat’s Vice President for Satellite and Launch Vehicles. ‘Exposing the satellite to the realities of the launch experience allows us to know with confidence that it can withstand the real thing.’
During the testing process, a powerful shaker was deployed to simulate the vibrations induced by the rocket’s engine thrust and its ‘cut-off’ at stage separation. Additionally, a concrete reinforced chamber blasted the spacecraft with acoustic waves, much like those which will impact the rocket and its payload during lift-off.
Following the shaking and blasting, all mechanical appendages on the satellite were deployed and tested.
The Inmarsat-5 satellite passed every one of these extremely demanding tests and simulations. It will now move to the next phase, where it will be subjected to the void of space and the large temperature variations it will experience in orbit, which are designed to ensure the satellite can operate reliably for more than 15 years.
The second and third Inmarsat-5 satellites, currently in development by Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems, will endure similar rigorous testing prior to the launch.
‘With each passing test, another step in the process is completed and we move forward to launching the satellites that will power the first global Ka-band broadband network over satellite,’ concluded Carnevale.
The Ka-band covers frequencies of 26.6GHz-40GHz and are increasingly being used to offer satellite broadband services. Satellites have traditionally been deployed in the Ku-band (12GHz-18GHz, but they have generally only been used by broadcasters and governments because of the high costs involved.
The Ka-band offers approximately 100 times more capacity than the Ku-band and at much lower costs, enabling satellite broadband providers to compete more effectively with terrestrial broadband services. The equipment required is much smaller, cheaper and easier to install, which means broadband services can be offered to consumers and small businesses at prices they can afford.