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Inmarsat appoints SpaceX for future satellite launches

Inmarsat has selected SpaceX, the Californian developer of the Falcon rockets, to provide launch services for a new S-band satellite and “up to two further Inmarsat missions”, though this will not include flights 2 and 3 in its Global Xpress programme.

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Asked by Digital Ship whether it might use one of these extra slots for the second or third Global Xpress (GX) launches, should the Russian-made Proton rockets be delayed significantly, Inmarsat today said that “the next two GX launches are still planned to be with Proton.”

Under the terms of the agreement with SpaceX announced earlier this week, Inmarsat expects to use the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle for its S-band satellite, but will retain the possibility of using a Falcon 9 as an alternative.

Last month, Inmarsat announced plans to deploy a wholly-owned S-band payload on a satellite jointly owned and funded by Hellas-Sat.

The S-band payload is expected to be delivered for launch on Europasat at  the end of 2016 and will be used to provide service to the aviation sector in the EU. The cost to Inmarsat of the total deployment programme (including build, launch, insurance and operations) is approximately $200 million.

While SpaceX will not be used for the launch of the second and third GX satellites, Inmarsat has secured a SpaceX launch vehicle for the fourth Inmarsat-5 satellite it has more recently purchased from Boeing. That satellite is scheduled for delivery in mid-2016 and Inmarsat says that it has secured this SpaceX slot as it wanted to ensure launch availability for that time, when it will decide to launch it either as a replacement satellite or as a fourth satellite with an incremental Ka-band business case.

Inmarsat says that it has also agreed terms with SpaceX “for a third launch vehicle opportunity that can be used for other future missions, including potentially for the launch of an Inmarsat-6 generation satellite. The Inmarsat-6 satellites have not yet been designed or ordered and a first launch is targeted only towards the end of the decade.”

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