Inmarsat issues warning after another Proton launch failure

An Inmarsat I-5 satellite for its Ka-band GX Aviation service.Inmarsat has warned that the launch of two of its Ka-band GX satellites is likely to be delayed after yet another International Launch Services (ILS) Proton launch vehicle failure.

In a statement, Inmarsat, which has a contract with ILS for the launch of two Inmarsat-5 satellites, known as F2 and F3, said a Proton launch vehicle failed shortly after lift-off on Thursday.

This rocket was not carrying an Inmarsat satellite.

The statement said: “On 15 May 2014, a Proton launch vehicle failed shortly after lift-off, resulting in the loss of its satellite payload.

“The cause of the failure will be assessed by a process known as the Failure Review Oversight Board (“FROB”) and a report of its findings is expected to be completed in the next two months.

“While the conclusions of the FROB will be important in determining the impact on our launch schedule, we believe a delay in the planned launch of both the Inmarsat-5 F2 and F3 is now likely, which would delay the launch of GX services on a global basis.

“However, the start of commercial GX services on a regional basis using F1 (and F2 in due course), as well as existing customer commitments to purchase GX services, will not be impacted by any delay in global service availability.”

A similar launch in July 2013 ended in failure after the Proton’s angular velocity sensors were installed upside down – an error that caused a lot of red faces and the issue of some P45s at the Baikonur facility.

Inmarsat’s first GX FI satellite was successfully launched last year and is in position to serve both Europe and the Middle East.

The company is expected to announce the first of its GX Aviation customers very soon, but until the cause of the failure is identified and rectified there will be many nervous faces at its City Road, London, headquarters.

Inmarsat shares tanked on the news, falling around 28p (about 4%) at one stage before finishing the day 4p down at 706.5p.

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