Arianespace has announced that it will launch a small geostationary communication satellite for Intelsat in 2026. The launch will be carried out using the Ariane 6 rocket, specifically the more powerful version known as the Ariane 64. The satellite, called IS-45, was ordered by Intelsat from Swiss company Swissto12 last November. Swissto12 specializes in 3D-printing technologies for space systems and has developed the HummingSat platform on which the one-ton satellite is based.
The IS-45 satellite will carry a payload of 12 Ku-band transponders and is expected to be launched in the first half of 2026. This contract marks a significant milestone for Arianespace and Intelsat, as it comes almost 40 years after Arianespace conducted its first launch for Intelsat in 1983.
Over the past four decades, the commercial GEO satellite launch market has undergone significant changes. Previously, geostationary satellites formed the core of the market, with an average of 20 to 25 satellites being launched annually. However, in recent years, there has been a decline in demand for these satellites due to the rise of broadband constellations in low Earth orbit.
Despite this decline, launch companies still consider the commercial GEO market to be important. According to Tory Bruno, the CEO of United Launch Alliance, the market remains stable with about 10 launches per year. These launches will increasingly be part of multi-orbit systems that work in conjunction with low Earth orbit constellations.
While the executives acknowledge the importance of the GEO market, they recognize that the demand for broadband constellations is the primary driver for launch services. The design of these constellations requires a continuous pace of launches to replace old satellites even after the system is completed.
In conclusion, while the role of geostationary satellites in the commercial launch market has diminished, it still holds significance. However, the shift to broadband constellations in low Earth orbit has become the stronger engine for growth in the industry.