Inmarsat 4-F2 lifted off from Boeing’s floating platform today. When the 13,108-pound (5,945-kilogram) spacecraft enters service from geostationary orbit next year, it will join Inmarsat’s F1 satellite to deliver broadband communications to 85 percent of the world.
Built in Europe by EADS Astrium, the Inmarsat 4-series spacecraft will transmit over 200 spot beams to deliver strong signals to the small receivers. Each craft has a giant unfurlable antenna reflector stretching 30 by 39 feet.
The new craft are 60 times more powerful and have 20 times more capacity than their predecessors, the Inmarsat 3-series of satellites.
Inmarsat 4-F2 — launched today — will be placed at 53 degrees West, and will serve South America, most of North America, the Atlantic Ocean and part of the Pacific Ocean. Inmarsat 4-F1 — launched earlier this year — is located at 64 degrees East, over the Indian Ocean to cover Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Inmarsat has also built a backup, the F3 spacecraft. If not needed as a replacement, the craft could be deployed over the Pacific as the third member of this broadband satellite constellation. Inmarsat has contracted with Atlas 5 for another launch.
The cost of transferring one megabyte of data from anywhere in the world is put at between $4 to $7, while a voice call is expected to cost under $1 a minute. BGAN would be cheaper compared with traditional satellite communications, and in some cases cheaper than regular mobile communications.
Inmarsat was set up as an intergovernmental organization in 1979 to provide communications to the global maritime community. It is now a private company quoted on the London stock exchange following an IPO earlier this year.
Today’s liftoff was Sea Launch’s fourth flight of 2005 and 18th overall since debuting in 1999. Sea Launch is a joint venture between American, Russian, Ukrainian and Norwegian companies.
Intelsat 8 (above) is another international carrier going domestic with spot beams. It was launched this summer. The satellite was part of Intelsat’s acquisition of Loral’s North American satellite assets in February 2004, which helped give Intelsat a significant presence in the North American video and data markets.
The F1 and F2 are different. They’re designed to support mobile and handheld satellite devices.
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