July 27, 2016 – According to Inmarsat, the global mobile satellite communications provider, construction and associated sub-system tests of the satellite for its European Aviation Network (EAN) in-flight connectivity solution has been completed on schedule by Thales Alenia Space. The EAN is an integrated satellite and air-to-ground network intended to provide a true in-flight broadband experience for Europe’s aviation industry.
The key milestone was achieved on schedule following a two-year build process in Toulouse and Cannes, France. The completed S-band payload module was shipped in early July to Thales Alenia Space’s testing center in Cannes, where the company reports the satellite integration (‘mating’) was also successfully completed. The satellite is now undergoing rigorous system end-to-end testing before it is declared ready for flight in 2017.
The satellite has been designed to provide mobile satellite services (MSS) to aircraft flying over dense European routes, exploiting Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, plus Norway and Switzerland.
The satellite will be integrated with a LTE-based ground network covering approximately 300 sites, operated by Inmarsat’s partner, Deutsche Telekom. Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an on-board network communicator.
Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said, “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. 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.”
According to Inmarsat, over the coming months the 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 nominally. 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, scheduled to take place in 2017.