Arianespace to launch Intelsat small GEO satellite in 2026
Arianespace, the leading European launch service provider, has announced that it will launch a small geostationary communication satellite for Intelsat, the world’s largest satellite operator, on an Ariane 6 rocket in 2026. The satellite, named IS-45, will be based on a new and innovative platform developed by Swissto12, a Swiss company that specializes in 3D-printing technologies for space systems. The contract marks a long-standing partnership between Arianespace and Intelsat, which dates back to 1983 when Arianespace launched the first Intelsat satellite on an Ariane rocket.
IS-45 will be a software-defined satellite, meaning that it will be able to reconfigure its payload and coverage in orbit according to the changing needs of its customers. The satellite will carry 12 Ku-band transponders that will provide high-speed, dynamically-allocated connectivity across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia for commercial and government mobility customers, as well as cellular network backhaul. The satellite will weigh about one ton at launch and will be placed into the requested geostationary transfer orbit.
The satellite is based on the HummingSat platform that Swissto12 developed with support from the European Space Agency (ESA). The HummingSat platform is designed to offer high performance, flexibility and affordability for small GEO satellites. It uses 3D-printing technologies to reduce the mass and cost of the satellite components, as well as to enable rapid prototyping and customization.
IS-45 will be launched on an Ariane 6 rocket, the next-generation launcher developed by ESA and ArianeGroup, with Arianespace as the launch operator. The Ariane 6 is expected to make its maiden flight in 2022 and will offer increased reliability, performance and competitiveness compared to its predecessor, the Ariane 5. The Ariane 6 will have two versions: the Ariane 62, which can carry up to five metric tons to GEO, and the Ariane 64, which can carry up to 11.5 metric tons to GEO.
IS-45 will fly with unnamed co-passengers on the more powerful version of the Ariane 6, the Ariane 64. The launch is scheduled for the first half of 2026 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Arianespace has not disclosed the value of the contract, but said that it repurposes a previous launch agreement and introduces one additional satellite.
The contract between Arianespace and Intelsat demonstrates the continued demand for small GEO satellites in the commercial launch market, despite the rise of broadband constellations in low Earth orbit. It also shows the trust and confidence that Intelsat has in Arianespace’s launch services and in the Ariane 6 rocket. Moreover, it highlights the innovation and collaboration among European space actors, such as ESA, ArianeGroup, Arianespace and Swissto12, to develop new technologies and solutions for the space industry.