See how Inmarsat worked with Slingshot Aerospace to maneuver safely.
Even in space, there is traffic, and navigating a satellite requires precise knowledge of where other objects are at all times. In early 2023, Inmarsat, a global leader in mobile satellite communications, successfully maneuvered its next-generation satellite, Inmarsat I-6 F1, to its orbital slot in geostationary orbit (GEO) despite the challenges of operating in a congested area.
Inmarsat I-6 F1 ushers in a new era of satellite communications for Inmarsat, which, for over 40 years, has provided constant and seamless broadband access across sea, air, and land to businesses and people around the world, including the 49% of the world’s population which lives outside of the digital society.
With safety and sustainability at their core, Inmarsat is a leader in the communications sector and shows how companies can perform their missions while also preserving space as a peaceful and safe domain.
Getting I-6 F1 to its destination posed a challenge for Inmarsat’s satellite operations team: they needed to safely and quickly move through an increasingly crowded environment. As advocates for space safety and sustainability, the team at Inmarsat sees the value in leveraging commercial data and analytics to enhance mission safety. So, when it came to maneuvering I-6 F1, the company looked to Slingshot Aerospace and the Slingshot Global Sensor Network to provide exquisite tracking data to ensure that it could maneuver safely to its orbital slot.
One of the challenges satellite operators face is having accurate and timely tracking data for their satellites and other objects – including other active satellites – that they might encounter in space. While some operators, like Inmarsat, share data about their satellites’ locations to improve safety and coordination between operators – not all operators share this vital information. That’s the problem Inmarsat faced when preparing to move I-6 F1. To safely squeeze between the other two satellites and park in their new slot, they needed precise data that they did not have. This is where Slingshot stepped in to help.
The Slingshot Global Sensor Network provides 24/7 optical satellite tracking in daytime and nighttime conditions, from low Earth orbit (LEO) to Geostationary orbit (GEO). For Inmarsat, Slingshot delivered precise tracking data so that Inmarsat’s satellite operations team could plan their maneuvers efficiently and avoid collisions with nearby satellites.
With data from Slingshot, the team at Inmarsat was able to fully evaluate their situation and conclude that, with a slight change in maneuver plans, they could still safely move into their orbital slot despite having neighboring satellites close by.
“We had no room for error; we couldn’t get a scratch on either side,” shared Alessandro “Alex” Cacioni, Director of Flight Dynamics at Inmarsat.
And, with the right information and meticulous planning, the 5-ton, nearly 47 meter-wide, multi-million dollar I-6 F1 had a smooth ride. In the end, the team at Slingshot worked hand-in-hand with the team at Inmarsat and together, exceeded expectations for the mission.
“Without Slingshot’s data, we would not have been able to come to our conclusion as fast or with that level of accuracy” Cacioni shared in a debrief of the mission, stating that with the Slingshot data, him and his team were able to:
We at Slingshot applaud Alex Cacioni and the team at Inmarsat for being champions of responsible space operations and are delighted that we could support their mission. Examples like this are at the core of our company mission – ensuring safe space operations to accelerate space sustainability.