Inmarsat’s Global Xpress satellite is go

Inmarsat successfully launches fourth Global Xpress satellite from SpaceX in Cape Canaveral

Inmarsat has confirmed the successful launch of its fourth Global Xpress satellite into space from the historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The launch, which took place on 15th May at 00:21 (BST) / 19:21 (ET), was a pivotal moment in aviation connectivity and one that was watched by thousands across the world.

The satellite

Like the three existing satellites in Inmarsat’s fifth generation fleet, I-5 F4 was built by Boeing in El Segundo, California as part of an approximately $1.6bn investment in the first ever global Ka-band service from a single network operator.

The launch team from Inmarsat and Boeing Network & Space Systems are now raising the spacecraft to a geostationary orbit. Once in position, I-5 F4 will provide additional capacity for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress airline partners, delivering high-speed inflight broadband to passengers and flight crew.

It’s safe to say I-5 F4 is an impressive piece of kit.

Sat stats

  • The I-5 body is approximately seven metres tall, bigger than the height of a double decker bus
  • The satellite features 89 Ka-band fixed spot beams
  • There are six steerable spot beams to direct additional capacity where it is needed
  • I-5 solar arrays have a wingspan of 40.6 metres. Wider than a Boeing 737’s.
  • There are five solar panels of ultra-triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells built in
  • A xenon ion propulsion station-keeping thruster system (XIPS) handles in-orbit manoeuvring
  • I-5 had a launch mass of approximately 6,100kg
  • I-5 is expected to be in action for 15 years

The launch

Launch Complex 39A – the launch location for I-5 F4 – holds a significant place in history. It was here that Apollo 11 took off in July 1969 as part of the first manned mission to the Moon.

Following in the footsteps of NASA’s historic launch, Inmarsat’s inaugural launch with SpaceX was on its two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. This delivered the satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) where, approximately 32 minutes after launch, the satellite was deployed and came under command of the Boeing and Inmarsat satellite operations team. From here the I-5 F4 is currently being manoeuvred to its geostationary orbit, 35,786km above Earth, where it will deploy its solar arrays and reflectors before undergoing intensive payload testing before beginning commercial service.