Inmarsat delays satellite launch after Russian rocket failure

Space News

Global broadband satellite service for companies suffers further holdup after latest malfunction at cosmodrome.

Inmarsat has been forced to delay the launch of the third satellite for its global broadband service while an investigation takes place into the failure of a Russian-built rocket sending a Mexican satellite into space.

inmarsatStaff at Inmarsat in London. The company said the delay would cause a small reduction in 2015 revenue and earnings.

The mobile communications company launched the second satellite for its Global Xpress high-capacity service in February and its third, called I-5 F3, was scheduled to go into orbit from Kazakhstan by early June.

But on Saturday a rocket taking a satellite called Centenario into space for the Mexican government malfunctioned and both were destroyed. The Proton Breeze M rocket was the same as the model to be used by Inmarsat, delaying the UK company’s launch until the fault is found.

The Global Xpress programme is meant to provide ultra-fast broadband to governments and companies such as shipping operators and broadcasters wherever they are in the world. It has suffered a series of delays because of malfunctioning rockets and the latest glitch leaves Inmarsat waiting to include the Pacific region for its global coverage.

Inmarsat said the delay would cause a small reduction in 2015 revenue and earnings. It withdrew its guidance for 8% to 12% compound annual growth in mobile satellite revenue from 2014 to 2016 but said it expected to hit a five-year target of $500m (£318m) extra revenue from Global Xpress.

Rupert Pearce, the chief executive of Inmarsat, said: “This incident involving a failed Proton launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome is extremely unfortunate and will inevitably delay our launch plans for our third Global Xpress satellite.

“This is the third time our Global Xpress programme has suffered launch delays because of Proton launch failures. Although in the past, Proton has returned to flight within a few months of a launch failure, it will not be possible to determine the length of the delay in the launch of I-5 F3 until the cause of the Centenario launch failure is established.”

He said customers were anxious for the Global Xpress service to expand worldwide and that the company would update them once it had a new launch date.

Inmarsat shares have risen since the launch of the second Global Xpress satellite in February, hitting a record of £10.22 on 8 May. The shares fell 3% to 965p on Monday morning.