Posted on: 21 July 2016 by Mark Howells
Inmarsat has announced that the construction and associated sub-system tests of the satellite for its European Aviation Network (EAN) in-flight connectivity solution have been finished on schedule by Thales Alenia Space.
The completed S-band payload module was shipped to Thales Alenia Space’s testing centre in Cannes in early July, where satellite integration (‘mating’) was successfully completed. The milestone follows an extensive two-year build process in France.
The satellite was custom-designed to provide mobile satellite services to aircraft flying over dense European routes, exploiting Inmarsat’s 30 MHz (2 x 15 MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, plus Norway and Switzerland.
It will be integrated with an LTE-based ground network covering approximately 300 sites which is operated by Deutsche Telekom. With the EAN, aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an onboard network communicator.
Over the coming months, Inmarsat’s new S-band satellite will be put in a thermal vacuum chamber with no pressure to simulate the space environment and cycled through extreme high and low temperatures to ensure it operates normally. Mechanical and acoustic testing will then replicate the launch environment, followed by final phase testing to compare any shifts or variations in measurements against the initial base line. Once these tests are complete, the satellite will be prepared for launch by SpaceX at Cape Canaveral in Florida in 2017.
Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, declared, “The EAN has been specifically engineered to meet the connectivity needs of the aviation industry and is a cornerstone in our expanding worldwide mobile cellular network. It will offer unprecedented high-speed capacity at 75 Mbps with near-zero latency while flying over Europe, so passengers can enjoy an easy-to-use true broadband experience for internet streaming, gaming and other online services direct to their personal smart devices. In addition, with no moving parts on the aircraft, the solution is not only lightweight but also easy to install, very robust and low maintenance.
“The on-time construction of our multi-beam satellite, as well as Deutsche Telekom’s ground network of approximately 300 new LTE sites across Europe, highlights the rapid progress we are making with the EAN,” Mondale continued. “The coming together of Inmarsat and market-leaders across Europe, including Thales, Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Cobham SATCOM and OTE, on this ground-breaking development will strengthen Europe’s position as a global technology innovator and support the continued growth of its aviation industry.”