Inmarsat Looking at Alternatives to Falcon 9

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)
Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Inmarsat could shift one of its satellites to another launch vehicle due to the problems with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said Thursday the launch of its fourth Global Xpress satellite due this year on a SpaceX rocket would be delayed until next year and that the company may shift a spacecraft due for launch next year to another rocket.

“We are actively looking at alternatives,” Mr. Pearce said in an interview.

The satellite that may be shifted to another rocket is a critical element of Inmarsat’s plan to provide high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi to airline customers flying in Europe. British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA on Wednesday announced it would be the launch customer for the service, which is due to commence next year.

Inmarsat is worried that even after SpaceX resumes launches with the Falcon booster, it may not be able to make up lost time to assure its satellite is placed on orbit as scheduled. Alternatives the London-based company is considering include flying the spacecraft on the European Ariane 5 rocket, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Atlas V, or the Russian Proton booster. Mr. Pearce said Inmarsat could stick with SpaceX if it can get an earlier launch slot.