Arianespace has announced that it will launch a small geostationary communication satellite for Intelsat on an Ariane 6 rocket in 2026. The satellite, called IS-45, will be launched on the more powerful version of the Ariane 6, known as the Ariane 64.
IS-45 was ordered by Intelsat from Swiss company Swissto12, which has developed 3D-printing technologies for space systems. The satellite, weighing one ton, will carry a payload of 12 Ku-band transponders. It is based on the HummingSat platform, developed by Swissto12 with support from the European Space Agency.
This contract between Arianespace and Intelsat comes nearly 40 years after Arianespace conducted its first launch for Intelsat in 1983.
The commercial launch market for geostationary satellites has seen significant changes over the past four decades. These satellites used to dominate the market, with an average of 20 to 25 launches per year. However, the demand for such satellites has decreased in recent years due to the rise of broadband constellations in low Earth orbit.
Despite this decline in orders, launch companies still consider the commercial geostationary orbit (GEO) market to be important. They expect it to remain relatively stable, with around 10 launches per year. These satellites are also increasingly being integrated into multi-orbit systems in conjunction with low Earth orbit constellations.
While the GEO market remains significant, the main driver of launch demand is now broadband constellations. These constellations require a continuous stream of launches to replace old satellites even after the overall system is completed. Therefore, the focus has shifted towards the growth of constellations in low Earth orbit.
In conclusion, while the role of geostationary satellites in the commercial launch market has diminished, they still play a stable part in conjunction with the growing demand for broadband constellations.