What the successful launch of Inmarsat’s GX5 satellite means for inflight connectivity

The dynamic satellite – which will deliver more capacity than the entire existing GX satellite fleet combined into Europe and the Middle East – was launched on 26 November, 2019

GX5, the fifth satellite in Inmarsat’s Global Xpress fleet, has successfully launched.

The next-generation satellite – built by Thales Alenia Space – was lifted into orbit by Arianespace from Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 5 launch vehicle at 21:24 (British time) on 26 November. Satellite separation from the rocket took place at 21:58  (British time) on the same day. Inmarsat said telemetry was successfully acquired shortly after separation and the mission is proceeding to plan.

GX5 Rocket launch

The launch teams from Inmarsat and Thales Alenia Space will deploy the satellite’s solar panels and antenna reflectors after raising its orbit to geostationary altitude (approximately 36,000km above the Earth). They will then carry out rigorous testing and calibration before the spacecraft enters commercial service in early 2020.

“GX5 is the next exciting step in the story of Global Xpress, which has already become the gold standard of worldwide mobile satellite broadband,” said Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat. “GX5 will also continue to ensure that Inmarsat’s thousands of Global Xpress customers remain at the cutting-edge of global connectivity technologies as their needs evolve. My thanks go to the team at Inmarsat, as well as at our partners Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace, for their tireless efforts to reach this exciting stage.”

GX is the most successful service launch in the history of Inmarsat and remains the world’s only, globally available, ‘true’ broadband service.  GX5 will be fully integrated into this network, which powers the company’s award-winning GX Aviation and Jet ConneX inflight broadband services for airlines and business aviation.

At a time of rising passenger expectations and demand for robust and reliable high-speed inflight broadband, alongside capacity challenges, the launch of GX5 is timely, bringing additional, focused capacity over Europe and the Middle East.

GX5 represents a significant advance in the capabilities of the network

Philip Balaam, Inmarsat Aviation’s President, praised the GX5 launch and said it represented a pivotal moment in the history of Inmarsat, and specifically the development of GX Aviation and Jet ConneX.

He said: “This next-generation satellite will deliver more capacity than the entire existing GX satellite fleet combined into the region. GX5 represents a significant advance in the capabilities of the network and will ensure that Inmarsat’s aviation customers remain at the cutting-edge of passenger connectivity technologies as their needs evolve.”

GX5 Rocket launch

Existing GX Aviation customers such as AirAsia, Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, as well as the 600-plus business jets activated with JX, will find their connectivity services backwards compatible for all their current GX terminals. This not only future-proofs their investment but ensures that Inmarsat’s customers’ requirements will continue to be met as demand for capacity keeps on increasing.

A roadmap for success

GX5 is hugely significant as Inmarsat embarks on an ambitious period of enhancement across its GX network. According to Balaam, this launch forms the next stage of Inmarsat’s unrivalled technology roadmap. In the years to come, seven more new generation satellites will be sent into orbit, ensuring that Inmarsat stays ahead of passenger demand and offers its customers critical commercial advantages.

“We have spent years planning and investing in our technology roadmap to ensure that we can confidently continue to meet growing demand for connectivity for decades to come,” he said. “This marks the first of several launches in the coming four years that will grow our world-leading services to meet rapidly-expanding demand, connecting passengers around the world to reach their full potential.”

Our connected skies just got a power-up.