Inmarsat’s GX5 successfully launched, albeit fashionably late

Inmarsat has confirmed a successful launch of the GX5 satellite, the fifth to join the Global Xpress (GX) network. The satellite will provide additional overage particularly over Europe and the Middle East. The launch was postponed from Friday 22nd November due to a problem at the Ariane 5 launch complex, but was successfully completed yesterday, November 26th instead.

GX5 launch
The GX5 launch was successfully completed yesterday. Photo: Inmarsat

Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, commented on the launch in a statement sent to Get Connected, saying,

“The successful launch of GX5 represents a pivotal moment in the development of GX Aviation and Jet ConneX. This next generation satellite will deliver more capacity to Europe and the Middle East than the combined entire existing GX fleet (GX1-GX4) does worldwide, ensuring that Inmarsat’s aviation customers remain at the cutting-edge of passenger connectivity technologies as their needs evolve.

 “The launch of GX5 also marks the start of our ambitious development roadmap for the GX network, with seven additional satellites being launched in the coming four years. This will cement our ability to provide gold standard connectivity to the airline and business aviation markets, meeting fast-growing demand throughout the world for decades to come.”

Details of the launch

The launch took place from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou at 21:23 UTC yesterday. Using the Ariane 5 workhorse, its fourth successful flight this year, the rocket delivered both GX5 and another payload into their geostationary transfer orbits. Separation was achieved at 21:58, and communication was established shortly after this.

The highly anticipated GX5 satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space, is set to be the most advanced in the GX constellation. It has been specifically designed to provide mobile services across Europe and the Middle East. It is expected to deliver more capacity than the entire existing GX5 fleet, although it will need to undergo rigorous testing and calibration before it enters commercial service.

For now, the teams from Inmarsat and Thales Alenia Space will be focusing on getting GX5 to where it needs to be. Its solar panels and antennae reflectors will be deployed, and its orbit raised to around 36,000 km above the Earth’s surface.

Also on board was TIBA-1, a civil and government telecommunications satellite for Egypt.

Why was it delayed?

Originally we reported that the launch was scheduled for Friday 22nd November, as per Inmarsat’s communications. Initially, Arianespace released a statement on November 23rd which suggested there were some technical problems at the base, pushing back the launch to Sunday, November 24th. The statement read,

Due to a power supply anomaly in the ground segment of the Ariane 5 launch complex, the final chronology for Flight VA250 was stopped at 20 minutes prior to liftoff (H0-20), leading to a launch postponement.

The Ariane 5 stages have been emptied of their propellant. The launcher and its two satellite passengers – TIBA-1 and Inmarsat GX5 – remain in a safe mode at the Spaceport.

The ongoing investigation has led to a new targeted launch date of Sunday, November 24, 2019 at the earliest.

The launch successful launch took place on the 26th. Photo: Inmarsat

However, the new date was to prove unsuitable for the launch also. Although the investigation into the power supply issue had been successfully put to bed, inclement weather in Kourou caused the partners to take the decision to push back the launch by another 24 hours. The new launch window was then set for between 21:09 and 22:54 UTC yesterday, November 26th.

It’s a clear success for Inmarsat as they work to develop the most comprehensive satellite network around the world. GX5 will be particularly important in managing the growing demand for the Ka-band WiFi services on the GX platform around its target geographical area.

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