Inmarsat today provided an initial update on the launch schedule for Inmarsat-5 F3 (I-5 F3) following the failure of the preceding Proton Breeze M launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday 16 May.

According to an announcement by Inmarsat’s launch partner, ILS, the Proton Breeze M rocket carrying the Centenario satellite suffered a disabling anomaly during the operation of the third stage, approximately eight minutes after lift-off, resulting in the loss of the satellite and rocket.

A Russian State Commission has begun the process of determining the reasons for the failure. In parallel with the State Commission, ILS will form its own Failure Review Oversight Board, which will review the State Commission’s final report and corrective action plan, in accord with U.S. and Russian government export control regulations.

Proton failure

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, speaking about the planned ILS launch of Inmarsat-5 F3, 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.

“Customers are understandably anxious to see the delivery of GX services on a global basis, and as soon as we have sufficient information to ascertain the new launch date for I-5 F3, we will make the information public, as well as comment further on the impact of the delayed launch of I-5 F3.

Mission assurance

“Meanwhile, we are pleased by the strong interest in GX services across many customer constituencies and buoyed by early revenues from I-5 F1, which is in service over EMEA and Asia, and by the successful delivery of I-5 F2 into orbit over the Americas.

“We are also reassured that I-5 F4 is currently under construction by Boeing in California, and remains on schedule for completion in mid-2016, with a potential SpaceX launch in the second half of 2016, providing us with significant mission assurance in the case of any protracted delays in Proton’s return to flight, or a failed launch of I-5 F3.”

The delay in the launch of Inmarsat-5 F3 is currently expected to have a small negative effect on 2015 revenue and earnings. The impact in subsequent years cannot currently be determined due to timing uncertainty and consequently Inmarsat is therefore suspending its guidance of an 8-12% CAGR in wholesale MSS revenues over 2014-16.

The medium term expectation for GX to deliver no less than $500m of additional revenues by the fifth anniversary of the global launch of commercial GX services and the related revenue growth profile are currently not changed by this delay.

Inmarsat will provide further information once this is available.