The competition heats up: The commercial satellite company Inmarsat has booked SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket for one firm launch and two additional options.
The firm contract is for the launch, scheduled perhaps aggressively for late 2016, of a satellite being built for both Inmarsat and Arabsat of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Arabsat will use the satellite for conventional telecommunications services for its wholly owned Hellas-Sat fleet operator of Greece. The Inmarsat payload uses S-band to provide mobile communications in Europe as part of a satellite-terrestrial broadband network, which is a new business line for Inmarsat.
Inmarsat’s launch contract is for a rocket that has not even yet been tested once, which tells us something about the faith they have in SpaceX. While I would be shocked if they didn’t have an option to pull out should there be significant delays or problems in launching Falcon Heavy, that they are willing to commit to it now is a convincing endorsement of SpaceX.