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Inmarsat recently announced that it would be using the French commercial launch service Arianespace to put its newest satellite into Earth orbit.

The satellite is a European Aviation Network (EAN) S-Band satellite and will be launched in mid 2017 from the Space Centre in French Guiana in 2017 using the successful Ariane 5 rocket. The satellite had previously been slated to launch with the US-based company SpaceX. But delays in SpaceX’s launch schedule meant that Inmarsat decided to use another launch partner on this occasion.

“We are delighted with the flexibility that Arianespace has shown that enables us to place our satellite in orbit by mid-2017.” Michele Franci, Inmarsat’s CTO”

“We are delighted with the flexibility that Arianespace has shown in being able to provide a launch slot that enables us to place our satellite in orbit by mid-2017,” said Michele Franci, Inmarsat’s CTO.

The satellite will support Inmarsat’s ground-breaking integrated satellite and air-to-ground network. This has been developed by Inmarsat in partnership with Deutsche Telekom and will deliver very high capacity broadband Wi-Fi services for passengers flying in the 28 member states of the EU, plus Norway and Switzerland.

The EAN satellite will allow the delivery of “on-the-ground” quality Wi-Fi to planes in the air. This will have an enormous positive effect on the passenger experience and will mean that flyers can enjoy everything from social media and multi-player games to video conferencing and collaborative working. It could also open up new revenue streams for airlines.

The satellite itself is a “condosat”. This means it’s one physical satellite that has more than one functional payload. It combines Inmarsat’s EAN satellite with an additional payload to make for more efficient delivery of cargo to orbit.

A proven track record

Arianespace is the world’s first commercial launch company and is based in Courcouronnes in the Paris suburbs. It uses the Guiana Space Centre (French Guiana is an overseas department of France) and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Since 1980, Arianespace has launched over 500 satellites using Ariane, Soyz and Vega rockets.

The Ariane 5 is the company’s current heavy lifting rocket and can launch 10 metric tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and over 20 metric tonnes into low-Earth orbit (LEO). The rocket itself is just over 50 metres high and weights 780 tonnes. The company has an excellent, proven track record for reliability and the Ariane 5 has enjoyed 75 successful launches in a row.

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