The launch of Inmarsat’s third I-5 satellite, which is crucial to the global roll-out of its GX Ka-band service, will be delayed after a Proton rocket failed while being lofted from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The Proton-M launcher failed after its third-stage booster accidentally switched off at a height of 161km (100 miles), according to reports.
The Proton was carrying a Mexican satellite into orbit before it malfunctioned and burnt up over Siberia on Saturday 16th May.
Inmarsat’s third I-5 satellite was due to be launched in early June, but the Proton will now be grounded pending an investigation.
The Proton launcher has been problematic with many failures over the years. This latest one will no doubt cast doubts over whether Inmarsat can keep its commitment to the full global launch of GX in the third quarter of this year.
The first two I-5 satellites are already in orbit, covering the Americas and Europe/Africa/Middle East/India.
The third I-5 is destined to cover the Pacific region.
Update: 18th May 2015, 07:30UTC
Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, speaking about the planned ILS launch of Inmarsat-5 F3, said: “This incident involving a failed Proton launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome is extremely unfortunate and will inevitably delay our launch plans for our third Global Xpress satellite.
“This is the third time our Global Xpress programme has suffered launch delays because of Proton launch failures. Although in the past, Proton has returned to flight within a few months of a launch failure, it will not be possible to determine the length of the delay in the launch of I-5 F3 until the cause of the Centenario launch failure is established. “Customers are understandably anxious to see the delivery of GX services on a global basis, and as soon as we have sufficient information to ascertain the new launch date for I-5 F3, we will make the information public, as well as comment further on the impact of the delayed launch of I-5 F3.
“Meanwhile, we are pleased by the strong interest in GX services across many customer constituencies and buoyed by early revenues from I-5 F1, which is in service over EMEA and Asia, and by the successful delivery of I-5 F2 into orbit over the Americas.
“We are also reassured that I-5 F4 is currently under construction by Boeing in California, and remains on schedule for completion in mid-2016, with a potential SpaceX launch in the second half of 2016, providing us with significant mission assurance in the case of any protracted delays in Proton’s return to flight, or a failed launch of I-5 F3.”