The Hellas-Sat 3/Europasat spacecraft which is co-owned by Inmarsat and the Arabsat subsidiary, Hellas-Sat, had previously been booked on-board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, it will now be lifted into orbit by an Arianespace-operated Ariane 5 rocket. Inmarsat, which was in charge of arranging the launch on behalf of the two partners, formally announced the change on 8 December after it had signed a new launch for Hellas-Sat 3/Europasat with Arianespace for mid-2017.
Continued delays to SpaceX’s launch schedule meant that the initial 31 December 2016 deadline for the launch of the spacecraft by a Falcon Heavy had been missed by SpaceX. This delay prompted the vehicle change. Inmarsat will keep the launch booking however albeit making it a Falcon 9 booking to add to another it already holds for a Falcon Heavy launch. The firm also holds a solid launch order with SpaceX for the launch of its Inmarsat 5-F4 (satellite which is due to fly next year.
Arianespace have not yet announced if there will be a co-payload for the mission. Inmarsat had previously stated that an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton could possibly serve as a replacement launch vehicle if required on which it also holds a launch booking.
The satellite and its S-band payload is essential to Inmarsat’s plans for its European Aviation Network (EAN). This product is intended to supply high-capacity bandwidth to aviation customers across Europe. Inmarsat is joined in this project with regional telecoms provider Deutsche Telekom. The Ku-band payload on the spacecraft will be Hellas-Sat for conventional communications use.