Updated at 6:50 CET with additional information from World Satellite Business Week.
PARIS — Global satellite fleet operator Inmarsat said Sept. 12 that it has chosen Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to launch Inmarsat-6 F1 in 2020 aboard an H-2A rocket.
“Inmarsat is delighted to select MHI and its H-IIA launch vehicle for the first of our sixth generation satellites,” Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said in a statement. “Inmarsat is continually seeking to extend and diversify its ecosystem of partners, particularly in the strategically important area of launch providers. We believe that MHI and its H-IIA launch vehicle offers a world-class service.
Speaking later the same day at World Satellite Business Week here, an MHI executive was blunt in stating that the price the Japanese firm offered Inmarsat was not a strength of MHI’s bid, attributing the contract win to other aspects of the H-2A.
“The reason why we got the launch order for Inmarsat, I think it’s not of course the price competitiveness of H-2A,” Ko Ogasawara, MHI’s director of space systems business development department “[Our] launch record is very good, 35 record success and high reliability. The other one is on-time launch. We keep our schedule, so I think they put high value on that.”
Inmarsat’s first sixth-generation satellite, which is under construction at Airbus Defence and Space, will support both L-band and Ka-band services.
Inmarsat, which did not disclose the value of the launch contract, said it has yet to select a launch provider for its second Inmarsat-6 satellite.
Pearce, however, made clear Inmarsat is paying attention to development of MHI’s next-generation rocket, the H-3.
“With the development of the new H3 launch vehicle, it is clear that MHI is committed to continuing innovation,” Pearce said. “These are attributes that we seek in our partners and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with MHI as one of our roster of launch partners.
For MHI, Inmarsat-6 F1 is the company’s second contract win with a foreign commercial satellite operator, following the launch of Telesat’s Telstar-12 Vantage satellite in November 2015. MHI’s launch manifest has been overwhelmingly government missions, the vast majority of which are for the Japanese government.
Ogasawara noted that 2020 is shaping up as a busy year for both MHI — and Japan. In addition to the launch of Inmarsat-6 and the planned debut the H-3, Japan will be hosting the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Ogasawara said H3 development is on track, with the rocket’s first-stage engine completing a flight-duration ground test in July.