SpaceX Lands Falcon Heavy Order with Inmarsat, Two More Possible

Note: This marks a substantial order for SpaceX, and a strong vote of confidence by one of the blue blood players in the ComSat industry.  Thus far, and despite the ground breaking potential of the Falcon Heavy, commercial orders have been somewhat slow in coming.  If today’s order ultimately results in three Falcon Heavy missions, it would effectively double the current manifest to six, including a preliminary test flight.

At the same time, the potential reversion to a standard Falcon 9 referenced in the press release strongly suggests, as Elon Musk has said, that there is a significant capability reserve in the baseline Falcon 9 compared to its published numbers.  If the 2016 flight does take place aboard a Falcon Heavy, it appears highly likely that it will be the booster’s fist commercial mission.  The timing could also be important relative to SpaceX’s attempt to break in to the EELV launch market.

Although the current lawsuit only targets single core launch vehicles,  it is a safe bet that once the Falcon Heavy has completed its own preliminary round of test launches, SpaceX will be pushing hard to go toe to toe with the Atlas 551 and Delta Heavy, where its price differential versus the ULA products will be greatest.

Inmarsat Press Release

Inmarsat appoints SpaceX for future satellite launches

02 July 2014: Inmarsat has selected SpaceX to provide launch services for its S-band satellite and up to two further Inmarsat missions.

Under the terms of its agreement with SpaceX, Inmarsat expects to use the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, but will retain the possibility of using a Falcon 9 as an alternative, providing further launch flexibility.

Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We believe that SpaceX has demonstrated tremendous successful progress in its launch capabilities and is now a fully-credible provider of vehicles to support geostationary missions.

Business safeguard

“We are delighted to be working with SpaceX for the launch of our S-band satellite and other potential future missions for Inmarsat. In view of capacity constraints in the satellite launch market, Inmarsat believes that securing optionality today is an important business safeguard to mitigate future launch schedule risk.”

In June 2014, Inmarsat announced plans to deploy a wholly-owned S-band payload on a satellite jointly owned and funded by Hellas-Sat, a non-competing European satellite operator. In connection with this latest agreement, Hellas-Sat will jointly and equally fund the cost of the SpaceX launch vehicle.

The cost to Inmarsat of the launch vehicle is included in the previously announced figure of approximately US$200 million for the total deployment programme (including build, launch, insurance and operations).

Proud partner

“As a leading provider in the global satellite communications space for more than 30 years, SpaceX appreciates Inmarsat’s confidence in the Falcon family of vehicles,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO. “SpaceX is proud to partner with Inmarsat on these missions and we look forward to delivering their satellites to orbit.”

In October 2013, Inmarsat announced the purchase of a fourth Inmarsat-5 (I-5) satellite from Boeing. In order to ensure launch availability for mid-2016, in line with the fourth satellite delivery schedule, Inmarsat has secured a SpaceX launch vehicle. This will provide certainty for a launch date and cost when a decision is made to launch the fourth I-5, either as a replacement satellite or as an additional satellite with an incremental Ka-band business case.

Finally, Inmarsat and SpaceX have agreed terms for a third launch vehicle opportunity that can be used for other future missions, including potentially for the launch of an Inmarsat-6 generation satellite. The Inmarsat-6 satellites have not yet been designed or ordered and a first launch is targeted only towards the end of the decade.

In relation to these launch options, Inmarsat will make some limited payments before the end of the year which will be captured within updated capital expenditure guidance to be provided with the second quarter results in August.

Posted in: SpaceX

About the Author:

Post a Comment