News Ticker

SpaceX launches heavy communications satellite

SpaceX on Monday launched a communications satellite for Inmarsat, marking its first launch for the London-based mobile broadband company. Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/spacex/

SpaceX conducted its second launch in 14 days Monday night May 15 at 7:21 EDT, successfully launching the heaviest satellite it has sent into orbit to date from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite, which weighs 13,417 pounds, will provide communications services to ships at sea, aircraft, and various government and commercial clients.

Within the next three months, the satellite will enter a geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth’s equator.

Built by Boeing, it is the fourth of a group of Inmarsat high-speed communications satellites, all of which provide broadband service to mobile applications.

Michele Franci, Inmarsat chief technology officer, said the satellite, part of its Global Xpress system, will provide “wi-fi services for (airline) passengers for web browsing, email, video downloads, and uploads.”

The satellite will also provide these services to the merchant shipping industry, she said.

Inmarsat-5 was originally supposed to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a heavier lift version of its Falcon, constructed with three Falcon 9 first stage cores and an additional upper stage.

Because the Falcon Heavy’s first flight has been repeatedly delayed, SpaceX engineers upgraded the Falcon 9’s engines to make it capable of launching the heavy payload.

Current plans call for the first launch of the Falcon Heavy to take place sometime this summer.

The Falcon 9’s second stage had to fire twice to take the satellite into what is known as a “super-synchronous” elliptical orbit.

Because of the satellite’s weight and orbital requirements, SpaceX did not attempt to land the first stage booster.

Initially constructed as a spare, the Inmarsat-5 will expand the company’s existing broadband service.

SpaceX’s next launch will be a Dragon supply vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) on June 1.

Laurel Kornfeld

Laurel Kornfeld

Staff Writer
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.
About Laurel Kornfeld (1054 Articles)
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.