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British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat has confirmed that it has switched a launch from SpaceX to Arianespace. The decision also affects Arabsat-owned Hellas-Sat which forms part of the launch’s overall mission.
Inmarsat says it will use an Ariane-5 heavy lift rocket to launch its ‘European Aviation Network’ S-band satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space in mid-2017.
Inmarsat stressed that it still has at least one contract still in place with SpaceX, for its Global Xpress Inmarsat-5 F4 craft, also due for launch in H1/2017.
“We are delighted with flexibility that Arianespace has shown in being able to provide a launch slot that enables us to place our European Aviation Network S-band satellite in orbit by mid-2017,” said Michele Franci, CTO, Inmarsat. “This launch schedule supports the introduction of our ground-breaking integrated satellite and air-to-ground network, developed by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, which will deliver a very high capacity broadband Wi-Fi experience for passengers flying throughout Europe.”
SpaceX has suffered 4 months of delayed launches, and Inmarsat is under considerable pressure to get its European Aviation Network satellite launched with a formal deadline set by the European Union that the satellite must be in place by December 31st this year. By any measure Inmarsat will miss that deadline by some 6 months.