Inmarsat, the mobile satellite communications services provider, has announced the successful launch of its first Global Xpress (GX) satellite (Inmarsat-5 F1) on board a Proton Breeze M rocket launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday (Sunday 8 December 2013) at 12:12 GMT.
The satellite was correctly acquired by the Inmarsat Paumalu station at 17:48 GMT on 8 December and the Inmarsat-5 launch provider, ILS, confirmed a successful spacecraft separation at 03:43hrs GMT on 9 December.
Over the coming two weeks, the Inmarsat controllers will command the satellite to perform seven chemical burns to raise Inmarsat-5 F1 to a geo-synchronous elliptical orbit, while just after Christmas, the satellite will have completed deployment of its solar arrays and reflectors.
This will be followed by the electrical orbit-raising phase, taking the spacecraft to its final geostationary orbit. This is scheduled to be completed by the end of January, ready for the start of payload testing at the beginning of February 2014.
Built by Boeing Satellite Systems International to a proven design (702HP), Inmarsat-5 F1 is part of a US$1.6 billion investment by Inmarsat into the next generation of global mobile broadband communications. This investment includes a fourth Inmarsat-5 satellite ordered from Boeing in October 2013, which will largely be used for redundancy purposes.
Inmarsat is the owner and commercial operator of the Global Xpress constellation. By the close of 2014 the fleet will comprise three high throughput satellites offering a unique combination of seamless global Ka-band coverage from a single operator, consistent higher performance of up to 50Mbps to mobile or fixed terminals, and the network reliability.
The company already operates satellites in the L-band, but these are nearing capacity. The Ka-band is susceptible to interference by bad weather and although the technology has advanced been to largely overcome this, Inmarsat will be able to switch traffic between its L-band and Ka-band satellite fleets if required.
Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “The successful launch of this first Inmarsat-5 satellite is a major landmark on our journey to deliver the world’s first globally available, high speed mobile broadband service. We are on schedule to achieve full global coverage by the end of 2014.
“The Inmarsat-5 generation is, by some distance, the fastest satellite development programme in our history. This is an extraordinary achievement and I would like to pay tribute to the skill and expertise of Inmarsat’s engineering teams and all our employees involved in the design, development, manufacturing, testing and launch.
“It is their dedication, alongside the outstanding support we have received from our manufacturing and launch partners - Boeing and ILS – which has helped deliver such a successful outcome.”
Inmarsat-5 F1 is built to Boeing’s flight-proven 702HP platform. Weighing over 6 metric tons at lift-off, the satellite has 89 Ka-band beams that will operate in geosynchronous orbit. It is designed to generate approximately 15 kilowatts of power at the start of service and, to generate such high power, the spacecraft's two solar wings employ five panels of ultra-triple-junction solar cells.