British satellite communications provider Inmarsat (Booth i82) is planning to launch three eighth-generation satellites in 2026 to help fortify its global L-band network and has contracted Swissto12 to build the new space hardware, the companies announced on the eve of EBACE 2023.
Founded in 2011, Swissto12 is a pioneer in the use of 3D printing technologies to produce next-generation radio frequency solutions, and it holds more than 30 patents. The Renon, Switzerland-based company will use its HummingSat geostationary small satellite platform to develop the I-8 satellites for Inmarsat.
Swissto12’s HummingSat platform, developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is the first commercial satellite of its kind. Each unit is 1.6 cubic meters (53 cubic feet) in volume, or about one-tenth the size of existing satellites in geostationary orbit.
“We have created an advanced class of small geostationary spacecraft that delivers world-leading connectivity capabilities at a fraction of the cost,” said Swissto12 CEO Emile de Rijk. “Our proprietary 3D-printing of radio frequency payload technology allows us to push the limits of existing capability and service new and existing business cases for geostationary satellite communications.”
The three I-8 satellites will complement the company’s existing satellite constellation and the two sixth-generation Inmarsat-6 satellites, which launched recently but will not be fully operational until early 2024. According to Inmarsat, the I-8 satellites will secure the company’s global safety services into the 2040s.
“The I-8s will not only underpin our existing capabilities for the future, but enable ever more advanced safety innovations like [satellite-based augmentation systems] that can ultimately help save more lives,” said Inmarsat chief technology officer Peter Hadinger. “We have chosen Swissto12 because they have the groundbreaking technology that can make it a reality.”
Inmarsat is also planning to launch five new satellites in 2024 and 2025 to boost its high-speed Global Xpress Ka-band network. Two of those GX satellites will have polar orbits and these will be the first geostationary broadband satellites with polar region coverage.