After five tumultuous years, Inmarsat can finally celebrate the successful launch of the third satellite in its Global Xpress constellation after the spacecraft was sent safely into orbit on the 28th August from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – paving the way for the introduction of global service on the network later this year.
The launch marks the culmination of a project first announced in the summer of 2010 when Inmarsat confirmed that it had placed an order with Boeing for three Ka-band satellites, signalling its intention to move into the construction of a VSAT network for the first time.
Three years later the company passed a major milestone with the launch of Inmarsat-5 F1 (I-5 F1), the first satellite in the GX network, on board a Proton Breeze-M rocket from Kazakhstan on the 9th December, 2013.
The optimism created by this first success was dulled significantly over the next two years, as repeated delays in the launch schedule caused the projected service introduction date to be pushed back.
The second GX satellite, I-5 F2, had originally been set for a Q4 2013 launch, but an explosion during a different launch using the Proton-M vehicle in July of that year meant that Inmarsat’s launch had to be postponed.
Further subsequent Proton failures extended the delay, until Inmarsat finally managed to get its second GX satellite into orbit in February of 2015.
Plans continued apace to quickly follow this with a third launch to complete global coverage on the network, however yet another Proton failure in May of this year led to an additional delay in the launch programme.
However, thankfully for Inmarsat this delay was relatively minor compared to the previous Proton setbacks, and the company has now completed its launch programme approximately one year later than planned.
Inmarsat has also invested in fourth Global Xpress satellite, but this will be used as a spare to back up the current spacecraft, or to add capacity on the network – as it stands, the three satellites now in orbit are expected to begin providing full global commercial services by the end of this year.