Demonstrating SpaceX”s ramped-up two missions per month launch rate, the company successfully launched the Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 spacecraft on its two-stage Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center today. Once again, Falcon flew from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), lifting off at 7:21 pm EDT.
One aspect of this flight is that Inmarsat-5 F4 is the heaviest satellite SpaceX has ever deployed to geostationary transfer orbit. As a result, the rocket’s booster lacked the performance reserve to attempt a landing either on the autonomous landing drone ship or at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral AFS. Being a now-rare expendable Falcon 9 first stage, the booster lacked the grid fins and landing legs characteristic of most vehicles.
As with all launches since the devastating Amo-6 accident last September, this mission took place from KSC’s Launch Complex 39A, a historic complex and landmark that has a rich history, including the launch of Apollo 11 and the first 24 space shuttle missions.
Thirty-two minutes after launch, at 7:53 pm, Inmarsat-5 F4 separated from the rocket’s upper stage. Communications was established with the Boeing and Inmarsat satellite operations teams based at the Boeing facility in El Segundo, CA at 8:04 pm.
Flying free, Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 will gradually move into its geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth, where it will deploy its solar arrays and reflectors and undergo on-borbit checkout by the Inmarsat team at the company’s Satellite Control Centre in London. Following successful testing, it will begin commercial service.
Inmarsat-5 F4 will boost the power of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network, which has been delivering seamless, high-speed broadband connectivity across the world since December 2015.
Once operational, the satellite will provide additional capacity for Global Xpress users on land, at sea and in the air.
Like the first three satellites in the fifth generation fleet, Inmarsat-5 F4 was built by Boeing in El Segundo, California in a program costing US$1.6 billion to build, launch and deploy the Global Xpress network.
The hefty 13,500 lb Inmarsat-5 spacecraft feature 89 Ka-band fixed spot beams, 6 steerable beams, xenon ion electric propulsion system and five solar panels in a package measuring approximately 23 feet tall with a deployed wingspan over 133 feet (wider than a Boeing 737).
The spacecraft are designed for a 15-year nominal on-orbit mission lifetime.
Global Xpress (GX) is the world’s first Ka-band global satellite network from a single operator, offering guaranteed high-speed broadband and unparalleled reliability.
GX gives customers across aviation, maritime, enterprise and government sectors continuous access to advanced data services wherever they are in the world and the knowledge that our resilient and reliable network will keep them always-connected now and in the future.
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