Inmarsat launches fifth GX satellite, adding more capacity to its global Fleet Xpress constellation

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Arianespace has launched Inmarsat’s GX5 satellite, the first of its second-generation constellation for Global Xpress (GX) on 26 November. The Ariane 5 launch vehicle placed GX5 into geostationary orbit from the Ariane Launch Complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana. This Thales Alenia Space-built satellite will augment Ka-band communications already provided to shipping through the existing GX1-GX4 network, which was the fifth Inmarsat satellite constellation.

Inmarsat provides ship connectivity through Fleet Xpress (FX), combining GX with L-band backup from its Fleet Broadband service. GX5 is the first of a new generation of GX satellites that will represent a sixth constellation. Inmarsat intends to launch another seven advanced GX payloads in the next four years for global coverage of its well established, high throughput Ka-band service.

Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce says GX5’s launch “marks the first of eight launches in the coming four years that will grow our services to meet rapidly expanding demand”, speaking from London’s Inmarsat Headquarters.

Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout says second-generation GX will enable ships to boost their connectivity capabilities four-fold. Fast-growing demand for digitalised services has led to a ship’s data consumption averaging 270 GB per month in mid-2019, compared to 5 GB five years ago, says Mr Spithout.

“As data use and demand for vessel and crew applications continues to grow, we are already seeing data volumes of more than 1 terabyte [1,000 GB] per month per ship,” he explains. “Launching GX5 heralds a major step forward in meeting that demand with capacity for shipping in one of our main markets and the next step in Inmarsat’s commitment to the future of maritime connectivity,” Mr Spithout adds.

Over the next four years, the GX fleet will be joined by a further seven advanced payloads, which represent unprecedented enhancement in overall capacity and capabilities of the GX network; the world’s first and only, globally available, seamless mobile broadband network.